Latest articles


The sustainability conundrum

In the Western world at least, there’s a big demand for ‘sustainably sourced’ products. What that means, or receiving a premium for them, is another matter

The food giants want it on their labels, and in the annual reports and other information they send to their investors. PepsiCo, Walmart, General Mills, McDonald’s, Unilever, Sara Lee and Nestlé are among those citing the years 2020 or 2025 as targets for achieving their goals of buying “sustainably sourced” products. But what does that […] Read more


How’s the crop?

That’s the question that StatsCanada asks 10,000 farmers, but increasingly, the grain trade doesn’t believe the answers

It’s become a predictable pattern. Statistics Canada releases a crop estimate. Reporters call traders and analysts for reaction, who inevitably say it’s either too high or too low. That reflects a general dissatisfaction with StatsCan’s time-consuming system of contacting 10,000 farmers to ask how their crop is doing. Replacing a survey-based crop report with technology-sourced […] Read more



If you want to dispute a grain grade

If you don’t like the grade at the elevator, you can appeal to the Grain Commission, but most farmers choose to shop around for the best deal

It’s their legal right under the Canada Grain Act — if farmers don’t like the grade their elevator manager offers, they can appeal to the Canadian Grain Commission for an official ruling. But not many do. “In 35 years of buying grain, I’ve only had it once or twice with guys that I’ve dealt with,” […] Read more




grain elevator

It’s buyer’s choice when it comes to your grain

Getting and keeping your farm on your elevator's 'first-call' list is harder than ever

With the competition heating up among farmers trying to sell their grain, and also among the elevators trying to buy it, relationship building between buyers and sellers has never been more important to business success for grain and oilseed producers. It’s why dropping in to say a friendly hello every few months is no longer […] Read more


The malting lottery continues

Having barley accepted for malting has never been a sure thing, and that’s still the case following changes to the marketing system

Malting barley can be one of the most profitable crops in Western Canada — if you can grow it, and if you can sell it. That’s not necessarily easy. Many farmers try — it’s estimated that 80 per cent of the barley sown in Western Canada is seeded to malting varieties. But only about 20 […] Read more



Malted Barley grains

The chicken and egg scenario of new barley varieties

Maltsters will buy new barley varieties if farmers will grow them. Farmers will grow them if maltsters will buy them

When ordering a beer these days, your choice is no longer just a couple of same-tasting brands from big national or international breweries. North Americans have developed a taste for “craft” beers from an ever-expanding list of smaller breweries. Different beers need different malts, which creates a demand for different varieties of malting barley. But […] Read more


Our farmland for sale

The West is clamping down on foreign ownership of farmland, and even in Ontario, where there are few controls, overseas purchases are much lower than the rumour mill says

Almost every rural coffee shop has its own version of the same story. Foreigners are buying up Canadian farmland and they’re making land prices soar beyond the reach of local farmers as a result. But is it true? Maybe. But not likely. In fact, according to the people with their fingers on the pulse, such […] Read more



Flax on the road to recovery in a post-Triffid world

Flax is back now that a GM variety is flushed out of the system, but there’s new competition from the former Soviet Union

After six years, the “Day of the Triffids” appears to be ending for Canada’s flaxseed industry. Triffid is a genetically modified variety of flax that was rather unfortunately named after the creatures in The Day of the Triffids, a 1951 novel about carnivorous plants bioengineered in the USSR that escape and blind people with their […] Read more


An open market is still a work in progress

A truly open market requires transparency of information, but the veil is still being lifted

When the Canadian Wheat Board lost its monopoly in 2012, Blair Rutter predicted that it would take 10 years to adjust to an open market system. “Moving from a centrally planned system to a market economy, it takes a while,” the executive director at the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association said in an interview. “We […] Read more