The early part of this growing season on the Prairies carried a lot of concern about dryness through a large portion of Saskatchewan, Alberta and parts of Manitoba. However, widespread rain over the past two weeks has done much to alleviate the flashbacks of last year, when the moisture situation was dire going into July.
In fact, parts of western Canada may have too much moisture. If areas are drowned out or heavily stressed, we could face some threats to yields. A more likely scenario is one where yields are generally good, but quality becomes an issue. Harvest weather will be the biggest determinant, but there are already growing concerns about the effects of moisture stress and the inability to spray for pests and disease.
While it’s too early to assume that this year’s harvest quality will be compromised, producers that plan ahead for this potential scenario will be better positioned than those that simply react after the fact.
Here are some things to keep in mind should this be the case this year
First, be fully aware of the quality specifications on any harvest delivery contracts that you have, and the consequences of not meeting the contracted grade. Are specific discounts built into the contract? How are discounts determined? For any additional sales made in the coming months it might make sense to consider locking in a lower delivery grade if premiums are paid for delivering a higher quality, which reduces some risk to the grower.
Second, look at expanding the list of buyers you normally deal with. Depending on the crop and how widespread the problems are, the bulk handing system can’t always handle lower grades efficiently. This results in wider discounts and lower prices to growers. There may be companies, often processors, which are able to offer better values for off-grades. In some cases their specific needs don’t align with the official grading specifications, and instead are interested in individual quality attributes. This can result in better prices being paid for a crop that is officially a lower grade.
Third, consider using a cash grain broker. Cash grain brokers can add a lot of value in finding the best home for your grain at any time, but this can particularly be true when quality is variable. Brokers deal with a wide range of end users and buyers, and understand what each one needs. This includes companies that may be outside of your geographic area, or that you otherwise might not think of contacting. A lot of value can be added for both parties by matching specific farm samples with individual end user needs.
Finally, one can’t overstate the importance of good and representative grain sampling. If you want a buyer to work with you, they need to know exactly what you have. This also gives you the ability to shop your grain around extensively, which is particularly important in years when quality may be variable. There are few things as disappointing for both the buyer and the seller as having a load that ends up getting rejected because the quality of what was delivered is different than what was represented by the sample.
It is still early in the growing season, and much can happen that will affect both yields and quality. Growers that anticipate and plan for different scenarios will be in a better position to respond to whatever outcome the harvest delivers than those who simply sit back and react after the fact.