As crop insurers brace for what could be record payouts this year, Tyler Groeneveld, Corteva’s commercial grains and oils leader for North America, tells us about a new approach the seed company is taking to share risk with canola growers. Also: Bruce Burnett of MarketsFarm considers the ways in which this year’s crop production shortfalls may spill over into next year’s seeding decisions; and Bruce Thorson speaks with Guelph researcher Dr. Briana Hagen about a new way to help farmers, and those around them, learn to assess mental health needs. Hosted by Laura Rance.
Read the transcript of this episode below:
Laura Rance: [00:00:04] Welcome to Between The Rows, the weekly podcast for Glacier Farm Media. I’m your host this week, Laura Rance. We all know it’s been a tough growing season as livestock and grain farmers watch their crops wither under the relentless heat and not enough rain this summer. At a time when crop insurance companies are bracing for what could be a record payout this year, this week, we’ll be talking to one company who’s taking an innovative approach to sharing the risk of farming with its growers.
Tyler Groeneveld: [00:00:34] So it’s a no hassle. There’s no on-farm adjusters required. This isn’t a yield program. It’s providing, you know, assurance against that situation of excessive heat, which we know will have a significant impact on yields.
Laura Rance: [00:00:52] We’ll also be talking to our weather and market analyst Bruce Burnett, about how the production shortfalls could spill over into next year. And we’ll be sharing some information about a new program available specifically to help Canadian farmers, farm family members and farm workers recognize what’s happening when someone’s up against it trying to maintain mental health.
Briana Hagen: [00:01:13] They said they needed someone who understood farming well enough that they could help them and they could trust them.
Laura Rance: [00:01:19] But before we get to all that, let’s talk about YouTube, specifically how you can find us on YouTube. Just search for it Between the Rows Podcast, I repeat Between the Rows Podcast, you’ll find the latest episodes as well as our evergreen archive, and we’re going to be using our YouTube space to post resources on stories and even pictures and video. We’re also hoping it’s going to be a place where you’ll drop us a line. Let us know what you think of BTR or tell us about a story in your community that we should be taking a look at. So again, head over to YouTube and search for Between The Rows podcast.
This week’s podcast is sponsored by Nutrient Ekonomics.
If you’re one of those farmers who felt a little burned by how forward pricing or contracting as a marketing strategy played out this year, you might be a little shy about signing up again for next year. But Corteva Agri Science has come out with an offer that might be too good to pass up. It’s offering insurance against a heat blast included in any contracts signed for its Nexera canola before October 29th. I spoke to Tyler Groeneveld, Corteva’s commercial leader for grain and oils, to get more details. I started by asking him to tell me how it works.
Tyler Groeneveld: [00:02:50] So the heat advantage has been designed so that when a grower signs a contract, makes that decision that he or she is going to grow Nexera canola, they’re going to be provided without having to sign up, it’s going to be included in the bag, with up to $100 of protection. So we’ve partnered with Global AG Risk Solutions. You know, we’re the seed developer and through our agreement, they’re going to provide the policy. Basically, that’s going to provide growers, you know, it’s going to measure heat at that critical period of when canola is flowering or begins to flower. That’s when kind of the yield is really being established. So if it gets excessively hotter than normal, you know, a payment could be triggered for up to $100 to a grower if it’s excessively hot during that critical period of canola flowering. So it’s a no hassle. It’s a real there’s no on farm adjusters required. This isn’t a yield program. It’s providing, you know, assurance against that situation of excessive heat, which we know will have significant impact on yields, you know, when the combine rolls.
Rance: [00:04:05] Does this cut a cheque mid growing season once you’ve established that the conditions are ripe for that kind of loss?
Groeneveld: [00:04:12] Yeah, so, you know, just in general, I mean, the period by which the crop flowers is let’s just use, for argument’s sake, the first three weeks of July. So what this is doing? It’s a program designed against excessive heat relative to normal. So it’s a program that’s in addition to other assurance insurance that like crop insurance or hail insurance. You know, we’re a grower has to submit a claim, have an adjuster out, provide data and evidence. This is a model based on satellite imagery and 41-years of weather data where, yeah, if it’s triggered and let’s hope it’s not triggered, let’s be honest, this is meant to provide a backstop against what a grower cannot control, which is excessive heat. But if that situation presents itself and you know, and it’s hotter than normal and you know, there’s going to be an impact on that, the grower would receive compensation well in advance or shortly thereafter that the policy closes. So in early August, for an example, the grower could, in that unfortunate situation, expect a payment long before he’s even harvested his canola.
Rance: [00:05:21] So how do you track that data like you mentioned a parametric temperature model? How does that work?
Groeneveld: [00:05:30] Yeah, so I’ll talk about it at a high level because Global Solutions is providing us and they have the proprietary model, so they use two satellites and they’ve analyzed over 40 years. So 41 years of weather data on every township that we grow canola from southeast Manitoba to the peaks region of B.C.. So, on a six-by-six mile grid, they can map and track exactly what he has done over 41 years, so they know what normal is. They can see when you’ve got high heat and then have been able to validate. That’s when there’s an impact on total production or yield and global ag risk then tracks it and grower will have full transparency to see, you know how they’re you know what the conditions are relative to normal and whether it’s acceptable heat and we’ve got a highly productive year or whether it’s excessive heat and there could be a payout triggered against that situation of heat.
Rance: [00:06:32] It’s really interesting, and it’s quite an interesting departure from how we’ve traditionally looked at in ensuring risk against production losses in agriculture. Typically, it’s based on a yield calculation. And so this definitely moves away from that. It actually measures the types of conditions that could lead to crop loss. Is that correct?
Groeneveld: [00:06:58] We’ve looked for an innovative opportunity to bring extra value to growers. Again, we understand that, you know, there’s so many decisions and investments that a producer makes in seed and all the production inputs required when they’re going to harvest the the marketing decisions. There’s so many fertility I could go on and on, you know, grower has so many decisions to make. So what we are really excited about is this is a variable that they just don’t have control over. You don’t know. And on any given point in time in certain regions, you know, you can have excessive heat from year to year and data backs that up. So we’re just excited to provide growers with peace of mind. You know, the heat advantage will provide them with, you know, some coverage against one of the variables that they just cannot control or forecast.
Rance: [00:07:50] Do you anticipate this will give Nexera canola? I mean, you mentioned that it’s a very profitable model for growers, but there’s more time and effort with growing IP. Do you do you anticipate that this will be a drawcard for producers when they’re making that decision of whether to grow a specialty oil like Nexera or or stick with commodity canola, which is selling at a really high price right now?
Groeneveld: [00:08:19] Do I hope to your other second question, do I hope this brings more growers into our program? I certainly do. We, you know, this is a program that, you know, the majority of the demand for the oil is in North America. So we’re not subjected to some of the geopolitical or the trade issues that we’d have in other countries. It’s a market that we want to grow. The food industry is looking for a reliable, safe supply, and there’s no one better than a Canadian canola grower to deliver, you know, a reliable supply under minimum and zero tillage programs. You know, we have the infrastructure to move our product from farm to processing plants or to a grain terminal and then to get that right down to the food industry here in North America. So I hope it drives growth. Absolutely, Laura.
Speaker4: [00:09:13] Yeah. And you mentioned it’s a it’s a market that’s growing anyway. I mean, the demand for this product is growing.
Speaker2: [00:09:22] Yeah, through the advent of COVID, we certainly more people beaten from or eating from home. Hey, North Americans, we love to snack. You know, one example is the snack food category is just is exploding. And you know, we all like our bag of potato chips and and but what consumers are looking for is permission to indulge. Yeah, they’re looking for healthy snacks or they’re looking for healthier snacks and putting a high stability. Omega ( canola oil from Nexera canola into a bag of potato chips as an example is really demand that it just is increasing now. And we’ve seen this for a long time, and that consumer trend has just been accelerated through the pandemic. So yeah, the demand is there and we’re all going. We’re going to start to go and we’re seeing it stateside. More and more people are resuming to eating out. And this is also oil fits very, very well as a frying oil because it doesn’t break down. It has functionality and nutrition attributes that restaurants are looking for.
Rance: [00:10:25] Well, thank you very much for joining me today.
Groeneveld: [00:10:29] No, that’s my pleasure, Laura. Thank you for the time and really appreciate the opportunity to talk.
Laura Rance: [00:10:51] That was Tyler Groeneveld, commercial leader for grains and oils in North America for Corteva Agro Science. This is Between the Rows. I’m your host, Laura Rance. Although we don’t yet know the full story on the size of this year’s crop. We do know the crop will be smaller than average. I asked Bruce Burnett, Glacier Farm Media’s director of weather and market information, to spell out how the conditions this year could spill over into farmers growing decisions next year. Hi, Bruce, thanks for joining us
Now the full story on this year’s production clearly is it isn’t in the bag yet, but you know, we are seeing from the reports that, you know, in all likelihood, we’re going to have reduced supplies. And what I’m wondering is how is that going to spill over into the conditions for next year, either through prices and the competition for acres?
Bruce Burnett: [00:11:47] Well, I think this is setting up a situation for next year’s crop that is going to be very interesting. We have prices that are at close to record highs or at record highs. So again, even if those erode a bit, there will be a strong incentive to plant next year’s crop. And the question is going to be which crops get planted next year. One of the factors that’s going to be, I think, in the front of everybody’s mind, at every farmer’s mind is what is my soil moisture situation like and which crops, you know, would handle those that situation the best. But after that, I think price is the most important determinant here as to what crops get planted next year.
Rance: [00:12:39] So, you know, you’ve got a situation where buyers of the specialty or smaller crops may be able to pay farmers a premium, in some cases a significant premium. But that’s predicated, of course, on farmers actually getting a crop. And so I’m just wondering, does that make it more challenging for those buyers to kind of lock in the acres that they think they’re going to need?
Burnett: [00:13:03] I think it does in some cases. Certainly, there are some crops that are riskier to produce and certainly under, let’s say, dry or drought conditions that was laid bare this this year. So again, the premiums needed to plant some of these crops probably will have to go up quite a bit. Of course, there’s always the limiting factor of how much will the buyers pay and in in the largest or for most of the crops grown in Western Canada, that means what are the international buyers lookin at in terms of pricing? Can they find some alternatives? That type of thing will also go into determining what kind of premiums can be offered for some of these crops, especially the smaller area crops that are going to need to see a substantial bump in acreage in order to ensure supplies for next year?
Rance: [00:14:02] You know, we’ve got situations where, like a company like Corteva has come up with kind of a different approach that in addition to the premium that they’re willing to pay, they’re actually going to share some of the production risk through insurance against heat blast. How do you see that fitting into the scenario? Do you think that would be an attractive option for farmers?
Burnett: [00:14:24] I think it’s one of a number of programs that we’re probably going to see over time here. This program is very interesting again, trying to entice acres into a specialty canola crop that certainly they need to find adequate acreage for that production this year. So this coming year. So because of the drought conditions we’ve had this year. Supplies are going to be low. And so we’re going to see a number of programs like this. Not all buyers can offer a program like this. There are probably just other commodities where the buyers are just strictly going to have to offer higher prices in order to attract the acreage, which I would call this the normal area of how you incent farmers to plant the crops that buyers need.
Rance: [00:15:23] Yeah, that’s certainly what we’ve seen traditionally. And I’m just wondering if we are going to see more of these kinds of approaches being taken because honestly, you can only push the price up so high, I would think, to still make sure that you get that acreage. Have companies tried this kind of approach before?
Burnett: [00:15:45] For the most part, companies haven’t, other than providing a premium abov, let’s say the the crop that normally is produced. So this makes this program a little bit more innovative on that front. But again, there are various forms of this type of insurance not necessarily against production loss, but just ensuring that production levels, if they’re meant to be somewhat similar, let’s say, to Act of God clauses in some of the pulse contracts. Those types of things where the farmers don’t face risks by signing a forward contract for planting a particular crop and allows them to do some pricing with some certainty of risk.
Rance: [00:16:42] A lot of farmers were kind of it was kind of a tense summer for a lot of farmers as they looked at the small print in, there’s some of the contracts that they had signed. What should farmers be keeping in mind before signing up on a production contract?
Burnett: [00:16:57] Again, with any production contract, the devil is always in the details, so take a look. Certainly, especially if you’ve been dealing with the buyer over the longer term. You should compare, let’s say, contracts from previous contracts to see if there have been any changes. Some buyers have inserted clauses that farmers just found out about this year. So it’s something to take a very, very close look at. And again, if there’s something that calls into question, talk to the buyer and make sure that what you’re reading in the contract is reality. And maybe in that case, it may cause you to walk away from it because it just puts on more risk onto your production- pricing system.
Rance: [00:17:58] Are our farmers in a position of strength this year in terms of the commitments that they’re willing to make? I mean, are they in a position where they could write their own contract per say?
Burnett: [00:18:10] Uh, that’s a tough question to answer. I think it depends a lot on the commodity and a lot on what buyers that you’re dealing with. Again, it’s something I think for individual farmers, it’s something to pay very, very close attention to on your farm. But again, I think there’s not a lot you can do if, if again, it’s like any contractual agreement. If one party doesn’t agree with it, then there is no contract, right? So therefore, it’s something that I think in some cases, farmers probably have a little bit more bargaining power this year. But again, if the buyer doesn’t want to accommodate them, the option will be to go and find another buyer that that is interested in your product as well.
Rance: [00:19:04] Thanks very much for joining us today, Bruce.
Burnett: [00:19:06] Thank you.
Laura Rance: [00:19:18] That was Bruce Burnett, director of weather and market information for Glacier Farm Media’s Markets Farm. If you’re interested in finding more stories and resources to weather the drought, check out The Dry Times on our FM website. That’s where you’ll find the latest drought coverage by our family of publications, as well as a resource page for information on how to manage through it. Look for The Dry Times on farmmedia.com. We’re hearing quite a lot these days about the mental health of farmers and farm families, but carving out the time to learn to recognize concerns when they come up isn’t necessarily easy for the AG community. Now there’s a new short form mental health literacy program designed specifically to help people in the farming community learn more on the topic. What you’re going to hear next is Bruce Thorson, speaking with Dr. Briana Hagan, a post-doctoral fellow and researcher in the Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph. Let’s have a listen.
Bruce Thorson: [00:20:28] What specifically have you been looking at as you’ve been earning your degree?
Hagen: [00:20:33] Hmm. So I actually defended my PhD just over a year ago now, and that work was largely focused on looking at the epidemiology of mental health outcomes. So looking at the patterns among the population in Canada of farmers, so I looked at things like depression, anxiety, chronic stress, resilience, burnout. And then we also did some qualitative work asking farmers themselves about what is it that impacts your mental health and what? What should we be doing better? What is being done already and how can we improve the services that are available to you?
Bruce Thorson: [00:21:16] And what were your major findings from that work?
Hagen: [00:21:19] Hmm. So some of the major findings included the fact that farmers were experiencing some of these negative mental health outcomes, like depression and anxiety at an increased prevalence compared to non farmers in Canada and other occupations. And then the other major finding was that the services that might be available while they were scarce themselves, farmers hesitated to access them due to kind of a lack of farm credibility or a lack of knowledge around agriculture for some of these service providers. So things like accessibility became hard when office hours were 9:00 to 5:00 or when suggestions coming from some of these service providers were just not conducive to farm life. For example, taking a two week stress leave not not an option for a farmer or some of these other strategies just didn’t jive well with what it meant to be a farmer. So we decided to look further into that and try to help develop some curriculum that were more farm specific.
Thorson: [00:22:26] And what did you come up with?
Hagen: [00:22:28] Well, one of the things we came up with was in the know itself. So in the know is a mental health literacy training that was developed with the farming community and researchers and psychologists, mental health service providers that focuses on farm life itself and how we can recognize signs and symptoms of mental health struggles in the context of farming, how we can open up a conversation with someone that we think might be struggling with their mental health and then knowing how to respond. When you ask that question and someone says, Yeah, actually, I really am struggling knowing what those next steps might look like and how you can safely help a person move forward to seeking help.
Thorson: [00:23:12] Now, you mentioned the fact that nine to five office hours can make some of the the services inaccessible to the farming community. You also mentioned the notion that a two-week stress leave is not an option for a lot of producers. What other things specific to to the farming lifestyle came up.
Hagen: [00:23:42] Some things that came up were, let’s see, for example, having to leave the farm at all to go seek services. Sometimes services weren’t available in the closest town, meaning that people had to travel to the nearest urban center to seek help, and sometimes that meant a two hour drive both ways. There was a financial barrier to access for some folks who simply couldn’t afford the fees that were being charged for mental health services, and they weren’t covered under under any type of plan. And then so those those were two big ones that really came up, another one that came up when there were services available close to home farmers. Not all farmers were comfortable with the fact that they people that they live near would see their truck in the parking lot, and they didn’t want people to know when they were seeking services so that stigma around mental health still still exists in some communities and is something that we need to continue working to address.
Thorson: [00:24:49] And one of those, as you mentioned before, one of the ways you were addressing that is with your in the in the No- project. What’s the status of that now and how is it received like you sort of explained what it was, but how did it actually pan out?
Hagen: [00:25:04] So now where things are at is we have partnered with many groups across the country with provincial agricultural groups or in the case of Ontario, we’ve partnered with OFA and as well as CMHC. So the Canadian Mental Health Association to deliver it in all the rural communities across Ontario. So basically what happens is those organizations can get in touch with us. There’s no cost to use our program. They just need to have someone facilitate who has taken the facilitator training. One of the things that I forgot to mention before is that when farmers were talking about help that they’d be willing to seek, they said they needed someone who understood farming well enough that they could help them and they could trust them. So the folks that deliver in the know training have to come from a farming background as well as have a mental health background. So you can imagine that those people aren’t in abundance everywhere. So kind of finding those people and getting them trained to deliver in the know across the country has been part of the last year of our our work, and we’ve been very fortunate to work with some awesome people in Manitoba and Nova Scotia and B.C., Alberta, Ontario. I think that’s it for now. But we’re also now working with a group in Saskatchewan and we hope to get every province covered.
Thorson: [00:26:31] But you mentioned the last year, and you mentioned the pandemic. The pandemic, then the drought, these are quite significant in terms of mental health for producers. Has there been anything particular that you’ve noticed working with farmers that’s that’s come out of this? Mm-hmm.
Hagen: [00:26:56] Yeah, it certainly has had a huge impact on on everyone. You know, the pandemic itself has been a struggle for for everybody. One of the silver linings of this pandemic is it’s really highlighted the need for really good internet in rural communities. I feel like we’ve been fighting with that or fighting for that for quite a while, and I feel like the pandemic really highlighted that some of these services that are traditionally delivered in person can also work online, and that eliminates some of those barriers that I talked about. So the nine to five hours or having to drive into an urban center, we can kind of navigate some of those through using teleservices, which is what we ended up doing within the know. It was designed as an in-person course, and then we had to pivot to be able to deliver it online, which increased access for a lot of people as long as they had internet proper internet that they could log in. So that’s one thing I noticed across the pandemic. And then on the not so good side, it’s an incredibly isolating thing to experience for everybody, and farmers are no exception. They’re farmers are generally quite rural and don’t necessarily have a lot of contact with a lot of people. But those were even further impacted with pandemic kind of restrictions and protocols that were in place. And then when you add the drought that we’re experiencing, I’m I’m located in Manitoba and we’re having a severe drought this year. And when you add that on top of everything, farmers are being pushed to the to the brink in terms of their stress. So it’s a really hard time for a lot of farmers. So having that mental health literacy that you can recognize when someone might be really struggling with their mental health is going to be a really good tool to have to be able to kind of combat some of these things.
Thorson: [00:28:58] Great. Well, thanks very much, Briana.
Laura Rance: [00:29:00] You’ve been listening to Bruce Thorson in conversation with the University of Guelph’s Dr Briana Hagen. You can find more information online about her mental health literacy program In the Know. If you’d like to have a look at some of the mental health resources Dr. Hagan mentioned. Head on over to our YouTube channel. Just search Between the Rows podcast. That’s all we have for you on this week’s Between the Rows, but we’ll be back again next week. I hope you’ll join us. I’m Laura Rance. This week’s podcast is sponsored by Nutrien EKonomics.