Potato shortage looms due to ‘harvest from hell’ after unseasonable weather

By Aleksandra Sagan


Farmers across Canada left thousands of acres of potato crops unharvested after a slew of bad weather created challenging conditions, setting the stage for a possible shortage of the starchy dinner table staple.

“It’s unprecedented. Never, never before have I seen this in my time,” said Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC), an organization that provides industry information to help farmers make production and marketing decisions. He’s been with the organization for seven years and, before that, grew potatoes in Prince Edward Island, where he still lives.

In typical years, one area of the country may suffer from a bad harvest, while others do OK, he said, but this year, the problems span almost all the way across the country.

Farmers abandoned about 16,000 acres of potato crop, according to the group’s most recent estimate, which did not include figures for Saskatchewan, Ontario or Nova Scotia, but indicated they also suffered some losses. B.C. is the only province that did not mention abandoned crops in UPGC’s report.

The group expects to have more precise figures soon, MacIsaac said, but is working with the best information it has now.

P.E.I., the country’s largest potato producer, suffered the most.

Farmers left about 6,800 acres unharvested. In a typical year, some 500 to 1,000 acres may be abandoned, said Greg Donald, general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, which represents the province’s nearly 170 growers.

The weather this year in the province was relentless.

First came a lacklustre growing season, with a late spring and hot, dry summer, said Donald, which was followed by an early frost in September that killed any future growth potential.

Then came copious amounts of rain, which delayed the end of harvest beyond the usual Halloween target date, and farmers pushed into November.

In early November, it rained one day and the ground froze solid the next, he said, meaning farmers could no longer dig for potatoes.

“Many have described it as the harvest from hell,” he said.

Unusual weather caused other provinces to suffer similar setbacks.

In Manitoba, some 5,200 acres remain unharvested, according to UPGC. While the province’s prospects for a good yield were strong going into harvest, rainfall followed by a cold spell resulted in thousands of abandoned acres, said MacIsaac.

Most farmers will have some type of insurance to cover a portion of their costs associated with the lost income, but it won’t cover the profit they would have made, he said.

The thousands of unharvested acres could mean a shortage of processing potatoes (those used to make products like french fries and hash browns) and table potatoes (those sold whole in grocery stores), both men said.

‘It’s going to be a real, you know, challenge,” said Donald, adding there’s not going to be enough local supply for the markets the province typically serves.

Compounding the problem is a similar situation in parts of the U.S., as well as parts of Europe where a dry season hurt yields, making for a more global shortfall.

While some growing areas in North America may have a shortage, others will have a surplus that can balance that out, said Terence Hochstein, executive director of the Potato Growers of Alberta.

His province abandoned about 1,000 acres, he said, which is more than he’d like, but pretty typical. It was able to send some potatoes to P.E.I. and Alberta to help, he said.

“Overall, I think the crop is going to be tight, but I think the industry will be alright.”

Still, consumers could ultimately see price hikes on potato products due to basic supply and demand principles.

When there’s less of a product, it’s going to be reflected in the price, Donald said, adding even the potatoes that have been harvested are not quite safe yet.

Potatoes are mostly water and harvesting them in wet conditions adds the risk of bringing extra moisture into storage, making them more difficult to dry and keep, he said.

“So that’s still a big concern as well.”

No more new cannabis retail licences due to pot supply shortage: Alberta

Alberta’s cannabis Crown corporation has stopped issuing any new pot retail licences after only receiving 20 per cent of the stock it ordered amid a Canada-wide supply shortage.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission had ordered enough cannabis product to stock up to 250 recreational pot shops for the first six months of legalization.

“While some licensed producers have fulfilled their commitments, not all have,” said AGLC president and chief executive Alain Maisonneuve in a statement on Wednesday.

“We continue to work with them to fill stock. Unfortunately, regardless of our efforts, we are seeing the supply of most products run out.”

The commission has also contacted all cannabis growers with federal licences to sell cannabis but has had “no success” due to the shortage, he added.

Since Canada legalized cannabis for recreational use on Oct. 17, several provincial government entities tasked with the sale and distribution of pot have said they are receiving less product than expected and warned that shortages could last for months. Late last month, Quebec’s cannabis Crown corporation slashed its operating hours due to scarce pot products.

Licensed producer Canopy Growth Corp. said last week it remained “on track to meet all commitments on an annualized basis” and it was working with all its provincial and territorial partners to address supply shortages. Aurora Cannabis Inc. said last week it was able to meet “just about all” of its supply obligations leading up to and after legalization day. The Edmonton-based pot producer said it was ramping up production in the coming quarters, but expected consumer appetite to outstrip supply for “some time.”

B.C.-based cannabis producer Tilray Inc. said last week it has explored buying wholesale to bridge the supply gap, but there was “far less” pot available than expected.

The lingering supply shortage has prompted the AGLC to stop accepting new applications for cannabis retail licences until further notice as well.

Applicants already in the queue will receive a full refund of all fees if they want to withdraw their requests, Maisonneuve said.

Alberta’s priority is on stocking private retailers so they will get the majority of “our scarce inventory,” he added.

“We will still maintain some online product to allow consumers in communities where there are not any retail stores to purchase online… I thank everyone for their continued patience while we work through the national shortage of legal cannabis.”

How Cannabis Legalization Impacts Your Insurance Coverage

Source: the co-operators

The Cannabis Act, also known as Bill C-45, came into effect Oct. 17, legalizing recreational marijuana. Here’s how this landmark decision affects your Home, Auto and Life insurance.

Home insurance

In all provinces except Manitoba and Quebec, you can legally grow up to four cannabis plants on your property for personal use. These four plants are treated the same as any other legal plant on your property and are covered under your Home insurance policy. If you illegally exceed the number of plants allowed in your province or territory, your claim may be denied entirely.

Household members who smoke cannabis aren’t eligible for our non-smoker discount.

Auto insurance

Legislation introduced by the federal government improves roadside screening and implements new charges for driving while impaired by drugs, including cannabis. Driving while under the in fluence of cannabis is illegal and can result in increased auto insurance premiums. Learn more about the dangers of cannabis impaired driving.

Life insurance

If you use cannabis for medicinal purposes, you may be asked about your medical condition during the life insurance application process. While recreational cannabis use won’t impact your rates, heavy use could cause higher premiums or a declined application.

What else you need to know about cannabis

While it’s legal for adults to use cannabis in Canada, each province and territory has different rules. It’s your responsibility to know what’s legal and what isn’t in the province or territory where you live or visit, including:

  • The legal age
  • Where you can buy and use cannabis
  • How much cannabis you can possess

For more information on the cannabis laws, visit the federal government’s Cannabis in Canada website.

Time to buy cattle price insurance

Market Update: Cow-calf producers should sell their feeders with the lofty futures and historically strong basis

By  | Grain News

Alberta packers were buying fed cattle in the range of $151 to $153 on a live basis in mid-October, up approximately $10 from a month earlier. While Alberta prices have been percolating higher, fed cattle values in Kansas have hovered around US$111 on a live basis over the past four weeks. Market-ready supplies of fed cattle in Western Canada appear to be tightening due to lower placements earlier in the spring. This has caused the Alberta fed cattle basis to strengthen.

Yearling prices continue to trade near 52-week highs. Medium- to larger-frame average-flesh 850-pound mixed steers were actively trading in the range of $203 to $210 in southern Alberta. Drier conditions throughout the summer caused cow-calf producers to market feeder cattle sooner than normal. This means available feeder cattle supplies in October and November are lower than anticipated.

U.S. cattle-on-feed inventories continue to run five to six per cent above year-ago levels. It appears fourth-quarter beef production will come in 200 million pounds above last year; similar year-over-year increases are expected in the first three quarters of 2019.

In Kansas, the fed cattle market has hovered around $111 on a live basis which is similar to the average price during October of 2017. The year-over-year increase in demand has offset the rise in production resulting in a similar price structure. Restaurant spending during October and November is expected to finish 10 per cent above last year while retail expenditures are projected to be up three to four per cent.

While the U.S. market has traded in a sideways range, Alberta fed cattle prices have been ratcheting higher through October. I want to draw attention to the placement by weight category during March and April. During March, placements in the 600- to 699-pound category were down 9,467 head from last year; during April, placements in the 700- to 799-pound category were down 11,379 head from April of 2017. This has resulted in lower market-ready supplies of fed cattle during October.

The Alberta and Saskatchewan cattle market has actually divorced from the U.S. for the time being. Basis levels for fed cattle are abnormally high due to the abnormal placement schedule during February through March. Secondly, strong fed-cattle prices in October have caused the feeder cattle basis to also reach historical highs.

Signal to sell

For cow-calf producers, a historically strong basis along with feeder cattle futures near 52-week highs is a signal to sell your feeder cattle. I also want to point out that the April live cattle futures have traded as high as $125 in early October. Over the past year, the live cattle futures have $101 and $130. The risk/reward suggests that there is more downside risk than upside, especially with the year-over-year increase in production.

Backgrounding operators will want to buy price insurance on calves immediately upon purchasing. The March feeder cattle futures reached a high of $155 earlier in October but have since dropped to $148. However, over the past couple of years, the high in the feeder cattle futures has been around $160 but the lows are around $130. It’s prudent to have price insurance this year given the year-over-year increase in the U.S. calf crop. Barley prices are also $50/mt above year-ago levels. The risk reward scenario suggests further downside moving into spring.

The abnormal placement structure during March and April has caused Alberta fed cattle basis to be abnormally strong for October. Feedlots currently have positive margins which has enhanced buying power for replacements. Many cow-calf operators marketed feeder cattle sooner than normal, therefore feeder cattle volumes during October and November are below year-ago levels in Western Canada. These two factors have contributed to the historically strong basis for feeder cattle.

Finally, the April 2019 live cattle futures are trading near 52-week highs which has also caused the November 2018 feeder cattle futures to also trade within the yearly high. Cow-calf producers should sell their feeders with the lofty feeder futures and historically strong basis.

The current environment is also telling backgrounding operators to buy price insurance on their feeder cattle. When you assess the risk/reward, we could see significant downside in the feeder market. The June live cattle futures are trading at a $7 discount to the April contract due to the sharp year-over-year increase in second-quarter beef production.

New proposed bill is the right step towards reforming the towing industry

 CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) applauds, MPP Gila Martow’s motion to table Bill 39, Accessible Parking and Towing Industry Review Committee Act, 2018. The bill, if passed, would establish a committee to focus on issues like provincial towing licencing, training and consumer protection. All three have been front of mind for CAA, its members and contractors for many years as part of the organization’s ongoing efforts around reforms for the towing industry.

“CAA SCO supports Bill 39, and encourages MPPs from every party at Queen’s Park to also support this legislation during second reading in the Legislature. The bill will help to design a single provincial framework that will assist small businesses in their operations, and protect consumers,” says Teresa Di Felice, assistant vice president, of government and community relations at CAA South Central Ontario.

CAA has been actively working with stakeholders and government officials to review and reform the towing industry. This summer, CAA launched the Towing Bill of Rights, to ensure Ontario motorists are familiar with the provincial rules and regulations that protect consumers and regulate the towing in Ontario.

The initiative highlighted that many consumers do not feel educated about their rights if they require a tow or roadside assistance. CAA’s advocacy efforts have identified that more work needs to be done to protect consumers, and Bill 39 is the right step in providing that opportunity.

“Bill 39 provides an opportunity to discuss challenges that the towing industry faces in Ontario, from repetitive and redundant costs to inconsistencies between municipalities. Establishing a provincial framework will help to ensure the viability of the towing industry, assisting motorists in their time of need”, adds Di Felice.

About CAA South Central Ontario
For over a hundred years, CAA has been helping Canadians stay mobile, safe and protected. CAA South Central Ontario is one of nine auto clubs across Canada providing roadside assistance, travel, insurance services and Member savings for our over 2 million Members.

SOURCE CAA South Central Ontario

SUV limo crash raises safety concerns but industry members maintain they’re safe

By Ian Bickis


TORONTO _ A deadly crash involving a stretched limousine-style SUV in New York state over the weekend has put a spotlight on safety concerns around the modified vehicles, but industry players maintain they’re safe.

On Saturday the limousine, built from a 2001 Ford Excursion, ran a stop sign, crossed three lanes of traffic and hit a parked SUV before stopping in a wooded ditch. Two pedestrians and all 18 people in the limo celebrating a woman’s birthday died.

The cause of the crash is being investigated but New York officials have raised concerns about a failed inspection for the vehicle last month.

Potential riders should realize these stretched vehicles aren’t made by the major automotive companies, said Russ Rader, senior vice-president of communications at the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“These vehicles are engineered to carry a lot of people, but in cutting them up and stretching them, some of the crash worthiness and safety aspects of the vehicle are taken out.”

Side-impact protection, full side airbags, some rollover protection could be lost, while seating modifications could make seatbelts hard to access, said Rader.

“Once a vehicle is modified and stretched like this, it would not meet the same crash-worthiness standards as the stock vehicle.”

Manufacturers of the vehicles, however, say they stick with detailed specifications set out by the main automotive brands used in modifications including Ford Motor Co. and Cadillac.

“We just do it one way, the way Ford or GM tells us how to build the car,” said Leo Bodenstein, vice-president of the professional vehicles division at Inkas Armored & Professional Vehicle Manufacturing.

“When you convert a vehicle, you’re converting it to the equivalent of those specs. You can’t exceed them, you can’t go over those specs, you can’t go under those specs. You have to build it as set by the manufacturer.”

Auto rebuilders can apply to be certified as meeting quality standards and specifications that outline requirements such as brake strength, wheelbase length limits, use of fireproof materials, and emergency exits including pop-out windows and an escape hatch in the ceiling.

North York-based Inkas is a member of Ford Motor Co.’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier program and therefore sticks with the regulations, even though customers often ask for flexibility on things like an extra seat.

Bodenstein said there are still some auto shops that might do modifications outside of what’s recommended by manufacturers, but Inkas sees significant value in being recognized as a member of Ford’s program.

He said it looked like the Ford Excursion involved in the deadly crash in New York could be longer than 356 centimetres (140 inches), which exceeds the manufacturer’s specifications.

Ford said in a statement that it does not have any information about the vehicle involved in this accident, but is ready to co-operate with agencies that are investigating.

Hameed Khan at Rolling Luxury in Ottawa, which rents stretched SUVs, said he’s never had a customer ask about safety issues but they can see that the vehicle has been given an inspection on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

“When they see the vehicle they would also see the annual sticker, so if the vehicle has that, it means that it’s gone through a thorough inspection by the ministry, by someone licensed by the ministry.”

He said the company imports vehicles from the U.S., and that all imported vehicles have to be in auto manufacturer programs like Ford’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier program.

The City of Toronto also requires that all modified Cadillac and Ford products must be converted in accordance with the manufacturers’ certification programs, while other conversions need to be certified by Transport Canada’s National Safety Mark.

British Columbia introduced more stringent regulations for the industry in the province in 2015 and now requires each vehicle to be approved by the Passenger Transportation Board for a special licence and has imposed a more extensive application process and operator review.

Rader at the Insurance Institute said that overall, customers need to do some due diligence before getting into such vehicles including a look at how companies train and licenses drivers, that it’s transparent on how they’re inspected, as well as adhering to basic safety practices.

“Above all it’s important for people to recognize that just because you’re in a limousine out celebrating and having a good time, the laws of physics are always at work, and you’re not getting some magic force field protection. You have to wear your safety belt.”

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