Farmers adjust to life without wheat board
Agriculture: Vulcan-area farmer marks good year
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 06:43 pm
A year after getting the freedom to market his wheat crops how he sees fit, a Vulcan-area farmer is looking forward to good times ahead.
As of Aug. 1, 2012, the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly over wheat ended giving farmers the ability to sell their crops to whoever offered the best price.
A year later, Vulcan-area farmer Noel Hyslip said the change has been good for his farming operation, explaining he received better prices for his crop and is planting different varieties of crops than he has in the past.
Hyslip estimated the prices he received are about $2 per bushel higher than what he received through the board.
“We never ever would have seen the prices we got for grain last year had there been a wheat board,” he said.
Combined with a good crop in 2012, he said it helped make for a good year. He was able to upgrade his equipment and he has more cash on hand available for his farming operations.
“There’s no denying that, but when it comes down to grain prices they were higher,” he said.
Hyslip was a strong opponent of the former Wheat Board. He served 45 days in jail in the 1990s for trying to take a truck-load of grain into the U.S. He said the fight was worth it to get the freedom to choose.
Hyslip said prices will fluctuate and farmers won’t always make the best decisions, but he believes it’s better than selling through the former wheat board.
“Not all my marketing decisions are the right ones by any means, but it was never about that,” he said. “It was to have the freedom to pick and choose.”
The end of the wheat board has also affected what grains he chose to grow this year.
Hyslip is growing durum wheat, used to make pasta, for the first time in a long time. It’s something he said he wouldn’t have done under the old Wheat Board.
He said he will also be able to get a premium for malting barley that was never available under the Wheat Board.
“It sold equal to feed and now it’s at a premium, so I’ve been able to forward price my barley this year that I’ve never been able to do in the past,” said Hyslip.
Charlie Pearson, Alberta Agriculture crop market analyst, said the transition has gone well so far, but time will tell what the end of the board really means for farmers.
“We’re into an open market situation where we’re dealing with multiple companies… so farmers are able to deal directly with each one of these individual companies on delivery and on pricing as well,” he said.
Time will tell if the end of the wheat board translates to better prices, said Pearson.
“It’s something that’s hard to measure at this time,” he said.
Pearson said the higher prices seen in the last year are because of a drought in the U.S. in 2012, not the end of the Wheat Board.
Ultimately, he said farmers were already used to marketing crops that weren’t under the Wheat Board monopoly, such as peas or canola, on their own.
“Farmers were able to take the skills they developed from selling canola and feed barley to feed lots and the peas and other crops they grow and they took those same sets of skills they developed for these other crops that were open market crops and they’ve been able to apply those crops to marketing wheat,” he said.