Good planning or good luck

Success can come from two sources, planning and blind luck. With so much information available today, planning is a lot easier than blind luck. In days gone by, blind luck had a bigger part to play.
It’s been interesting to note the ongoing fight over the Canadian Wheat Board and it’s also been very interesting to try to sort the truth out from the fiction, the wheat from the chaff. 
When demands for a CWB came about many decades ago, the wheat market was a very complex machine. Wheat was grown on hundreds of thousands of farms, not just in Canada but around the world. If farmer had couple of hundred acres of wheat, he was a big farmer in the 1930s. A lot more wheat was grown in 50 acre or 25 acre fields than in larger chunks.
Marketing information amounted to reading a weekly newspaper with 10-day-old information in it or listening to the noon news on battery radio. Longer term information might be received from one of the five grain company elevator agents in the town, a hour and half horse drawn wagon ride away from the farm.
Things didn’t change a whole lot through the 50s and even 60s. Market information came from those same sources and the ride to town was shortened to 20 minutes, this time in a one ton truck.
Today, things are much different, the number of farms and farmers is greatly reduced. There are more framers with 2,000 acres of wheat than there are those with 50, at least in North America. News of market trends comes right to the tractor seat by way of an iPhone or some kind of smart phone. Newspaper reports of market trends may make leisure time reading, but that’s about all. Perhaps some longer term trends can be explored in a written format but the price of today’s wheat or January’s wheat is instantly in the farmer’s hand, literally in his hand, on the cell phone.
Marketing information is out there for all to see and hear almost immediately.
When the CWB came back into being during WWII it was not, as many folks believe, set up to get a better price for farmers, it was to slow down the price rise so Britain could afford to buy wheat. Had the market gone straight ahead at the rate it was going, it’s doubtful if England could have fed its own people, let alone all the troops assembling on its shores.
During the late 40s and into the 50s, farmers allowed the CWB to become a thing of beautiful lore, the mechanism by which farmers, with only their grain scoops in hand, could beat back the big bad grain companies. It may have been more myth than reality but it made for good story telling. Every farm had a story about how grandpa got messed over by an unscrupulous grain buyer. The stories were likely true but it’s doubtful if CWB did much to prevent the problem.
The CWB today is putting out contracts, voluntary contracts, and time will tell if they can market wheat without a monopoly. They should be able to do so. They have the name, a reasonably good reputation, a host of world wide contacts and a team of marketing experts.
Like the farmers, they need some planning and some blind luck. Those two factors are still in play.
At the farm level, a farmer can pick the best fields, pick the best varieties and sign the best contracts. He can buy the best machinery he can afford, apply all the right fertilizer and chemicals. He can hope, he can pray. But if the rains don’t come or if July is too hot like it was this year, then one starts to wonder about blind luck.
Then there’s the price. Feed grains are rising in price, there’s a shortage due to the drought in the U.S. south-west. There’s the legislated  demand for grain to go into ethanol, a law that should be scrapped immediately by the way. It makes no sense to put food into ethanol especially when food is in short supply and oil is in good supply. Besides gas is somewhat optional and food isn’t.
So when all is said and done, a farmer can lean a lot less than they used to on blind luck and depend much more on informed planning. But then again, there’s still that blind luck factor. Or is it faith? You decide.

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