Recent History – 1999
Nov. 25, 1999
By Kate O’Neil, for the Peace River Block News
Wheat yields were good in the Peace this year, but the protein levels averaged on the low side. “Typically it was 10 per cent up to 15.4 per cent,” said Kelly Kassian, Agricore manager in Fort St. John, “75 per cent of the wheat was below 12 per cent protein.” The protein level is weather related, particularly during maturation of the crop. This year it was damp when it needed to be hot and dry, and very cool in parts of July.
Appearance of the wheat is what pays dividends. Kassian said Agricore has received Canada #1, #2, and #3 Red Spring Wheat and the July frost affected them all more than expected. Of the crops grown in the Peace, wheat represents about 35 to 40 per cent. “A lot have switched to canola and also to fescue,” Kassian said, “grain prices are low. It’s all part of a cycle, the fescue crop won’t stay high forever.”
Demand for wheat should cause prices to rise eventually, especially when less of it is grown in favour of higher paying crops. Prairie farmers are lobbying the federal government to do something about prices that are today what they were 30 years ago.
For B.C. Peace farmers, 10 years of zero and medium till meant more moisture in the soil. “One difference here, we have soil conservation groups, that’s how come we had a good crop this year,” said Gord Ouellette. Many farmers in the Peace now use zero or minimum till and he said they have switched to different drills.
Another aspect of the prairie farm economy is the movement of grain. Elevator companies make sure the grain that producers deliver is transported by rail to port. Ouellette said, “The elevator is about 50 per cent full right now. Grain movement has been very good so far this year.” He added, “B.C. Rail has given us good service and lots of cars, which has been nice for both elevators and the farmers.”
During early November the Agricore elevator was receiving up to 12 grain trucks per day. At that time a B.C. Rail strike was pending, which would mean closure of the elevator.