2019 harvest slowest since at least 1980: Saskatchewan Agriculture

It has been at least 40 years since the harvest in Saskatchewan has been as far behind in mid-October as it is right now, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture records.

Its latest crop report said 69 per cent of the crop had been harvested as of Oct. 14 — well behind the five-year average of 88 per cent for this time of year.

The closest comparable years during the last four decades were in 2002 and 1985, when only 70 per cent of the crop had been combined by mid-October, according to the ministry's archived crop reports.

More recently, Saskatchewan farmers had about 77 per cent of the crop off as of Oct. 12 in 2009.

Todd Lewis, the president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said he is not surprised to learn how the 2019 harvest compares to other years.

"There's so much frustration in the countryside with the slowness of this year's harvest and really just the lack of days in a row that we've been able to work," he said.

'Difficult marketing year'

The problem isn't any one thing, either — in fact, Lewis said it's been one thing after another this year, from rain to snow to high humidity.

He said there are now lots of reports of producers having trouble getting into wet fields and finishing up the harvest.

All of those issues are affecting crop quality, too.

"Certainly all kinds of downgrading the crop, be it sprouting or stained crops," he said. "And so it's really going to be a difficult marketing year, moving out some of this feed-quality grain that we're going to end up with."

Lewis, who farms southeast of Regina near Gray, Sask., said he has 80 per cent of his crop in the bin and estimated it would take another four or five days to get the remaining crop off.

Many regions in the province have less than half their crops harvested, he said.

Farmers hurt by late start to season

Stewart Wells, the vice-president of operations for the National Farmers Union, said he is also not surprised by the latest harvest numbers.

Wells said a lot of crops were a couple of weeks behind throughout the entire growing year.

"So when that's compounded with this miserable weather here over the last month, it's not surprising that the Saskatchewan stats are quite a bit lower than usual," he said.

Wells farms just east of Swift Current, and said he has been "a little bit lucky" that he only has one acre left to combine, adding that some of his neighbours were completely done before an early snow hit the area three weeks ago.

He said it has been a different story for the farmers who weren't finished.

"There is a lot of durum wheat that's laying right flat on the ground," he said. "And canola that was not swathed ended up being quite badly bunched up and a lot harder to get."

Cash flow problem

In addition to losing money from selling lower-graded crops, Wells said producers in this situation also have the extra cost associated with the additional hours it takes to harvest in these conditions.

"You're having to drive slower and there's more chances for mechanical things to go wrong, with dirt getting into the machine and rocks getting into the machine, because you're trying to cut a lot lower," he said.

Wells said it will be especially bleak for farmers who will have to rely on crop insurance, but who can't harvest their crop this fall — the insurance adjusters can't make an accurate assessment of losses until the crop is combined in the spring.

"Then there's really no cash flow coming from those acres for more than 12 months," he said. "And that's a really tough situation."

But Wells said he believes "there's been quite a significant change" in the harvest statistics over the last four or five days with improved weather conditions.

"There's been quite a few combines moving out there over this last week," he said. "So those numbers are likely to take a fairly significant jump next week."