Left on the desk — Aug 4, 2018

Every week I end up with a massive pile of tidbits, data points, interesting perspectives and stories that I don’t get around to writing about. Instead, they end up in a massive pile on my desk.

In an effort to deal with the inability to find a pen in this haystack of paper, Kelvin has encouraged me to write a weekly column that addresses all of these pieces of obscure fact and rumour so that I can start the week fresh again. So, here it is. The the first instalment of “Left on the Desk”:

    • You often hear that the U.S. could have dealt with China by staying in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is definitely a talking point for many talking heads in the media but no one ever says the “why.” From this weeks edition of the Economist, there is a terrific one-pager describing the Chinese strategy of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which is about all roads leading to Beijing. China is making international investments that come with a lot of cash and some pretty big strings and fine print, if you know what I mean.
    • Have you had something named after you? The closest I can come to this claim is the Nolan Bridge that crosses the Old Man River two miles from my house is named after my great-great-grandfather Thomas Patrick Nolan. Not many of us can say we have a street named after us. Recent Canadaian Agricultural Hall of Famer Kim McConnell had a street named after him in his home town of Hamiota, Manitoba. Way to go Kim, congrats. Just a question — can you get a speeding ticket on a street that’s named after you?

  • There has been real growth in agri-tourism for economic purposes and to foster a better connection with urban consumers. However, a sunflower farm in Ontario that was selling photo opportunities in their sunflower field has decided to ban all pictures.  With a parking lot to hold 300 cars, when the site was overloaded with people from Toronto in a social media wave, the decision was easy.
  • The Koch brothers (of Koch Industries in agriculture) are in a conservative policy turf war with President Trump. Libertarians to the core, the Koch brothers swing a big stick within the Republican Party, which also comes with major fundraising dollars. This week former Presidential advisor, Steve Bannon made it clear that he thinks the Koch brothers have to get with the program and that mid term candidates need to be cautious about accepting Koch donations. The Kochs have disagreed heavily against the Trump trade and tariff strategy.
  • If you were assuming that the Italian coalition government falling would be the way to resolve durum export issues faced by Canadian producers, you may have to think again as the Italian government is rising in popularity.


  • As populism in Europe gains momentum, it will not only be a threat to trade agreements like CETA, but also overall stability of the European Union. On a side note, here is some interesting info on how the rise of populism in Europe has been linked partly to the extremely hot summer (that’s also driving wheat prices higher.)
  • Just when you thought craft beer was the saviour for malt barley, it turns out that consumers are beginning to shy away from the hoppy beverage. According to the WSJ, consumers and especially millenials are choosing a cocktail or glass of wine over the traditional summer refresher of beer.  At the same time we have an bigger emergency in Canada due to the steel and aluminum tariffs.  There is a shortage of aluminum beer cans. You know what that means — we might have to switch to bottles for August.
  • I have always followed the marketing wisdom of Chip Flory, host of AgriTalk, who always told me, “China does not want U.S. soybeans, they need U.S. soybeans.” Even though trade patterns have altered due to increasing tariffs, could China’s reliance on soybeans change over time? A recent Reuters story talked about how the Chinese are searching for alternatives to soymeal for animal feed. Would canola meal suffice?
  • BASF is attempting to sell its Clearfield canola asset as required by the Canadian Competition Bureau. This week the bureau stated to RealAgriculture that there is a confidential timeline that BASF agreed to for selling Clearfield, but no publicly-shareable info on the potential of a buyer.  Based on discussions with industry insiders, the common favourites to buy the asset are Nufarm or venture capital.
  • We are continually hearing about people wanting to eat healthier as people watch their waistlines. It’s one of the reasons that beer consumption is down in the U.S. (see earlier story) but in one of the Canada’s largest cities where millennial granolas are more than happy to lecture you on the health concerns of GMOs, there is a trend taking off: fried chicken stores popping up everywhere. Such a greasy trend.

I hope you enjoyed this new column. Have a great weekend!!

2 thoughts on “Left on the desk — Aug 4, 2018

  1. Loved the article, it reminds me of the quick hits section of the Economist and my Fantasy Football Newsletter! Keep it coming!

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