Harry Siemens talks farming, moisture and attitude of farmers with Mackling and Megarry of 680 CJOB

Greg Mackling and Brett Megarry co-hosts of Mackling & Megarry spoke with Harry Siemens regarding moisture [or the lack there of] and how it affects farmers and their ability to raise the food the world requires and the ability to make a living. 

Brett Magerry – David Phillips explained that from September to now, essentially, early January last year we had received 217 millimeters of precipitation. In that same time period this year, only 125 millimeters. Now the way it worked in the fall of 2016 is you may recall we had a really soggy November, in particular. That helped out.
Well let’s get our guest on and he can maybe explain that. Harry Siemens, an agriculture expert, a longtime friend of this radio station. Harry, good morning to you sir.
Harry Siemens –  Good morning. It’s a nice cold morning.
Greg Mackling – Yeah, well, cold is fine, right? We can live with that. As we mentioned David Phillips. Harry, it’s Greg Mackling speaking by the way. We’re all okay here in the city with not having to shovel the driveway and the sidewalks and whatnot. But concerned about what this may translate into in terms of benefits or a lack thereof for our friends in the agricultural sectors.
Harry Siemens – Well, right now, winter is winter. The first thing to remember is that we grow some, we call them winter wheat and fall rye. Which they get planted in the fall. They get up and germinated before the winter and right now, when you’re driving down any country road or highway, you’ll see some green fields. Those are those winter wheat or fall rye crops. They really would like to see a good cover of snow.
But the key thing is, how long does it stay cold? If it gets cold too long, some of that can get some damage. But those acres are very few. And the other thing about snow and the lack thereof, all the farmers like to see their fields covered with snow. My dad farmed, I farmed. If you can get that good cover of snow early in winter, it was good. You didn’t see blowing and you knew that you had some moisture.
But one thing to remember that the crops that grow and starting in spring, they always depend on timely rains and soil moisture. So right now people aren’t too concerned. I was at the St. Jean Farm Days yesterday, the first farm show of the season in Manitoba. The attitude among farmers was absolutely great. They are looking forward to a good year. Yes, they would like some more snow, especially the snowmobilers.
Brett Megarry – You mentioned that farmers would like to see that snow cover. It sounds like they’re maybe not getting that. What’s driving the … Glad to hear they’re optimistic. But what is driving that optimism?
Harry Siemens – The optimism is when I talked to farmers yesterday, at the show, is the looking forward. The commodity prices appear to be stable, the technology continues to drive a lot of things that are happening in agriculture. And of course, as you know, we all need to eat. The population keeps expanding. Companies keep coming up with the kind of technology, the seed varieties and those kinds of things that farmers are really excited.
The really positive thing is there are quite a few young farmers that are really looking forward to moving ahead. They’ve taken over from dad. They’ve got the education. They’ve got the management skills from dad and they’re moving forward and looking optimistically at what agriculture holds for them.
Greg Mackling – Well, we’ll leave the moisture question behind then, for now, Harry. And we’ll keep an eye on it as we make our way to spring. Transportation for some farmers was a concern in terms of getting their incredible crops to market. Is that something that is persisting early in 2017?
Harry Siemens – A couple of railroads that take the grain to the ports. CN has had some problems with tracks codes and derailments and different kinds of things. But right now the crop keeps getting bigger every year and we’re very grateful for that. Whether the transportation system can speed up and make sure it gets to port.
I was just in Vancouver, in North Vancouver just probably four or five days ago. I looked at different functions there. We’ve got G3 building a huge terminal at the port. Another four companies that are gearing up. The key thing will be what we will do between here and getting that grain through the mountain. But right now, yes, there are some pockets where we’re seeing a backlog. But everybody seems to be working in the right direction.
We’ve got some legislation coming from the federal government that hopefully will ease some of these things and make it a little easier to invest and get things going the way they should be. But one thing to remember, the economy is going pretty good. So not only is grain wanting to be moved, all the other commodities, fracking sand and those kinds of things are needed to move too. They all want it moved yesterday, not tomorrow.
Brett Megarry – Harry Siemens, we got a text here from somebody named Rob. You mentioned winter wheat and Rob says, “I don’t think the winter wheat will survive the winter.” What do you think of that?
Harry Siemens – There are people that last year they thought there would be a real concern with winter wheat that came through with flying colors. It all depends on the heartiness of the crop, how it made it through the germination period and growing. There are two things about winter wheat, the acres are small. That doesn’t mean it’s insignificant. Secondly, in spring, if that winter wheat doesn’t come through, they have a second chance at putting in spring wheat.
Brett Megarry – Okay.
Greg Mackling – Thank you, Harry, we appreciate your insight as always. As a long time listener at CJOB, it’s always a pleasure to get to speak with you on this side of the microphone.
Harry Siemens – My pleasure. I’m glad you called and anytime.
Brett Megarry – Alright, Harry Siemens, thank you so much. Great to hear your voice once again. Agriculture, expert reporter, Harry Siemens has been a long time contributor to 680 CJOB and we very much appreciate his help on this.