Many area farmers are preparing their equipment for spring seeding, making their plans and getting ready to go once the temperatures are warmer.
Like most everything, the COVID-19 pandemic is making its impact felt on the agricultural industry, but Dale Mainil of Mainil Farms is aiming for seeding to be underway by around May 1st.
His son, Josh, took a load of canola seed in to one of the terminals, and in the meantime he has been in constant contact with suppliers about lining up the fertilizer and other inputs that will be needed for this year’s seeding.
The government recently indicated that the supplier businesses were deemed as essential services, so that “makes us feel a little better.”
The supplies include seed, fertilizer, chemicals (such as herbicide, insecticide and fungicide), all of which help the farmers get their crops in the ground.
Many markets and countries are dependent on the food produced and grown in Saskatchewan, noted Mainil, such as lentils and peas, not to mention the wheat, oats and barley crops.
“We take our job seriously,” said Mainil, noting food shortages can lead to dire consequences, up to and including war. “We want to make sure we can do our part. We export more lentils than anywhere else in the world out of Saskatchewan. We’re just making sure we have all the supplies and inputs to plant this crop.”
As farmers, they are highly dependent on the trucking industry as well as their suppliers, he said, and he pointed out they have many challenges also with many restaurants closed, and of the places that are open, their bathroom facilities are not open to the public, which creates difficulties for the truck drivers.
In the meantime, he is ensuring that he and his farm staff are practicing physical distancing and being safe as they work around the farm.
“We have a staff of four at this time of the year,” said Mainil, and they have been good about being vigilant with such practices as hand-washing and keeping the proper distance from each other.
“It definitely changes life on the farm. We’ve been delivering to all of the elevators and they’ve been taking precautions. It’s good to see,” said Mainil. “We’ve been hauling a lot of grain here in March.”
Another impact he’s seen is that spring farm auctions are now all on-line. In a more “normal” year, farm auctions are often social events where farmers can visit and network, where now all of the auctions are done over the Internet.
Asked about their plans for seeding, Mainil noted he sits down with his sons, Josh and Davin, around November-December, and look at the markets as well as their crop rotations to make their plans. Then, in March, those plans sometimes need tweaking, and Mainil noted with commodity prices in flux right now, they made some adjustments, such as reducing the number of acres for canola.
One of the factors in that decision is the continued stance of China in banning canola shipped by Viterra or Richardson Pioneer grain companies.
They have also been taking in grain marketing meetings, which due to the pandemic are now held by video-conferencing, and offer a lot of useful information about where the markets are heading this year.
China only took about 17 or 18 per cent of the canola crop from last year, noted Mainil. “That’s a big hole that we have to fill,” he said.
“I’m disappointed in our federal government, which has really dropped the ball in our view in trying to resolve this,” he said.
In terms of soil conditions, Mainil said they had excellent moisture levels last fall, so he is fully confident there is enough moisture to get the crops started this spring.
“North of Weyburn, it’s adequate, there’s no shortage of moisture right now. There are some dry pockets, but where we are, we want some sunshine. Out in the Fillmore area, there’s water in some low-lying areas,” he said.
“We have a positive crew,” said Mainil. “We will make it through this and we will learn from it, but we’ve got lots to do, and we’re going to do it safely.”