If there is one thing Canadians learned in 2022, it was how important agriculture is to each and every one of us.
First the pandemic, then the war in Ukraine and now a looming recession with the cost of everything, including our food, skyrocketing. I’ve decided my word for the year is “volatility.”
Seeing bare shelves in our grocery stores or not being able to afford some of the usual holiday meals and treats really drives home how much we (all of us!) take global supply chains, political stability and food security for granted.
In the western world, we’re lucky to have an abundance of things, but I do believe 2022 gave us an important reminder of how volatile and interconnected our world has become. The geopolitical landscape is important and we need our governments to help foster international relationships in agriculture.
On that note, I was pleased to close out the year at an international symposium hosted by the World Trade Organization. Sitting alongside representatives from China, East Africa and Brazil at the World Agri-Business Day Symposium, it’s clear that we need to work hard to find new ways to deal with the volatility of getting our products to consumers and getting inputs to farmers. You can watch the video of our discussion.
Did you know about one-third of food exports are traded in global value chains and cross international borders at least twice?
We spoke about ways to increase the resilience of our supply chains and reflected on some of the hard lessons learned from the disruptions during the pandemic and the current political turmoil. Being a farmer and waiting on inputs, like chemicals and fertilizers, to arrive in the hopes of a productive growing season and harvest, can throw the best-laid plans out the window. We only get one chance a year to grow our crop and it’s essential we have reliable access to these products.
As I reflect on the year, it’s mind-boggling to think about the price increases we’ve seen as farmers. Crop inputs, mainly fertilizer, are $50-$100/acre higher than a year ago. The cost of machinery is up as much as 50%. And, if you were going to borrow money to buy it, the multiple interest rate hikes we’ve seen over the past few months have pushed borrowing costs from 2% to between 6-7 %.
In what is a record-breaking year for commodity prices, how many farmers will see an increase in their profits? Will they be able to spend money in their rural community for goods and services, will they be able to keep staff on throughout the winter, how are they preparing for when the commodity markets soften?
Again, this volatility is one of the reasons why we launched Farmer Coach this year – to help farmers think strategically about their business and plan for the future. Kudos to my business partner Evan Shout who is our Lead Coach and helped us sell out all three cohorts we held this fall. As Evan says, capturing the opportunities and planning for the downturns is how farms today, big or small, will survive.
We had a good growing season and though the harvest was late this year, our team pulled together and made it happen, working long days to harvest 30,000 acres. I’m so grateful for the amazing team we’ve built and we’re looking forward to celebrating with everyone at the annual holiday get-together. We’ll be launching our Deep Roots Foundation in January, with each employee receiving $500 to the charity of their choice.
I had the chance to travel to eastern Canada, the United States and across the Prairies to talk with audiences about where Canadian agriculture is heading, and how we’re going to get there.
I met with politicians in the summer and gave them an ear full about how bad policy is the only thing that keeps me up at night. I’m hopeful the message got through.
In my spare time (ha, ha!) I spent many weekends coaching my kids’ hockey teams, at the lake, and hanging at the farm with Theresa, my parents and friends – and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’ve also read some great books this year that have challenged me to think bigger and look for creative solutions to new challenges (sign up for my newsletter for my recommendations).
As we look ahead, I think my word for 2023 will be “opportunity.” I’ve had many conversations this year with other farmers, researchers, analysts, politicians and bureaucrats and we all agree – Canadian agriculture has the opportunity to continue to be a world leader in sustainable and innovative practices. Now, we need leadership and collaboration to make it happen, and I look forward to being part of those discussions.