Big Harvest Produces Winners, but a Lot of Losers, Too

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MEDIA reports earlier this week noted Manitoba farmers and the province's economy are in for a banner year, as record harvests have combined with record commodity prices to produce record returns for the province's farmers.

"The buzz in the agriculture industry is the remarkable confluence of good yields and excellent prices," says Keystone Agricultural Producers president Doug Chorney. "It is a good thing for the farmer to be successful because everyone benefits in the economy across the board."

At least one report spoke of the excitement felt by the province's agricultural implement dealers, who anticipate a good portion of those profits will be spent by farmers who repair or upgrade their farm equipment. "From what we're predicting, we're going to see an increase of work over the course of the winter for the equipment that's out in the field right now," Kevin Read, parts manager for Enns Brothers in Oak Bluff, told the Free Press.

All of the positivity can be infectious, but we may be getting ahead of ourselves. That's because, media reports notwithstanding, not everybody is a winner in this story -- and that is especially the case in Western Manitoba.

While producers in southeastern and south-central Manitoba are reaping huge per-acre production, a number of Westman producers are actually seeing lower yields than they expected due to harsh heat and low precipitation in late June and throughout July. Large tracts of farmland are still out of production due to the damage caused by last year's flooding. Tens of thousands of acres of seeded fields in the Assiniboine River valley were flooded earlier this summer, wiping out crops.

For livestock producers, the story is even more grim. Feed costs have increased by almost 50 per cent, threatening the viability of hog and cattle operations. Karl Kynoch, chairman of Manitoba Pork, told the Free Press Manitoba hog producers are looking at approximately $130 million in losses over the next six months.

Hog production in Manitoba has decreased to around eight million head this year from more than nine million a few years ago. …