Is 2014 the Equivalent of the BSE Crisis for the Grain Industry?


Following the discovery of a BSE-infected cow in the Canadian cow herd in 2003, cattle producers saw a 30% to sometimes more than 50% drop in prices. What’s more, the slammed-shut U.S. border impacted cattle flow south for years. In over a decade since the BSE crisis, the Canadian cattle industry hasn’t so much “recovered” so much as it has evolved. And this has everything to do with the 2013/14 grain industry crisis how, you may be asking by now? I’m so glad you asked.

First off, perhaps no one has called the 2013/14 crop year a disaster yet, and for good reason. A record production year should hardly be called a failure. The dramatic nosedive of crop prices has turned what could have been a pretty great marketing season into a less rosy one, but it’s the lack of delivery to both elevators and Canada’s end-use customers that has truly made this a BSE-like crisis for the grain industry. That’s one of the talking points that came out of Gary Martens‘ recent presentation at CropSphere ’14, and I caught up with Martens after his discussion to expand on this concept.

Click here for more of RealAgriculture’s coverage of CropSphere ’14.

In the interview below, Martens, an instructor with the University of Manitoba’s plant science faculty, first draws the parallels between the BSE crisis of the early 2000s to today’s grain industry woes (30% drop in prices combined with a lack of movement), but then also goes one step further into looking at what the cattle industry learned from the hard landing and how the industry adapted and reshaped to what it is now. Martens challenges farmers to look at their farming operations, their crop rotations and even their crop budgets in a new way — could it be that similar adaptation and change needs to happen in the grain industry? Some food for thought below.

If you cannot see the embedded video, click here.


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