December 2010 Archives
When I started on this blog, I didn't intend to include any topic more political than debating favourite machinery colours. But after a visit from a neighbour this weekend, I felt obliged to to break that rule. Here's why.
That neighbour brought some legal papers with him when he came to see us. He asked me to take a look at them and give him some advice. I'm certainly not a lawyer, and he knew it. He just wanted to talk to someone who had lived in the area for a while. He hasn't. He's only been in the country two years, and the papers were related to his application for citizenship.
He 's applying to be a Canadian through Saskatchewan's Immigrant Nominee Program. To get here he had to meet a couple of conditions. First, he needed to invest a whopping $2.5 million in a business. And second, he needed to run it himself. He chose to exchange his farm in Europe for a livestock operation here. Now after two years of raising cattle, the government has asked him for a “good faith” deposit of $72,500 to further his citizenship application.
Good faith deposit? The guy has invested a ton of money in his farm and he's spent two seasons in the cow-calf business. That means he's been busy doing things like thawing frozen watering bowls when the windchill value is south of minus 50 degrees. If that isn't a gesture of good faith proving his intention to make an honest living here, what is? The government ought to cut him a check for that amount and thank him for coming.
Any prairie cattleman who had a spare $72,500 in his pocket two years ago is unlikely to have it now. The market hasn't been kind to cattle producers. And on top of it all, the guy has been without medicare for all the time he's been here. That's a lot of risk on all fronts. Now, he needs to pony up more money.
With all the publicity lately concerning illegal refugees getting into the country and staying in, it seems my neighbour's mistake was to follow all the rules and try to become a citizen the honest way. He isn't some Hollywood actor claiming he is being persecuted in upscale Beverly Hills, he's a working stiff trying to make a living.
You really have to give the guy credit. He left a moderate European climate to come to Saskatchewan, and he persisted—up until now. But his frustration is growing. If he wants health coverage and the right to remain in the country as a Canadian, he needs to make another trip to the bank.
For whatever reason, this final “good faith” deposit was much more than he expected to have to come up with. His application won't move forward without it. Even with the spate of bad weather across Europe this season, going back is looking like the easiest and most sensible option.
Of course if that Hollywood actor or some guy wearing a rubber mask, who flushes his passport down the toilet in an Air Canada jet, get to stay here with health care, at least for a while, my neighbour could always sell out, go home, then come back the way they did.
But if he's going to claim to be a refugee, why come to Saskatchewan? It's a nice enough place, but if the world is your oyster, why not look for palm trees and sandy beaches with balmy ocean breezes. Why not go to, say, Hawaii?
And now that I think of it, he may actually have a legitimate refugee claim to make if he heads straight there from here. After all, I'm sure Prime Minister Harper and Ag. Minister Gerry Ritz would sign an affidavit saying he's been oppressed by the CWB. And if the U.S. authorities need proof of torture, he could always show them the frostbite on his fingers from thawing those watering bowls in January.
I think I'll suggest that to him. If he gets in and you don't hear from me for a while, you know where I'll be. As for my remaining cows, book 'em... into an auction, Dano.
2010 is almost history, and overall things have been reasonably good on the agricultural front. Commodity prices aren't too bad—although they could always be better. And depending on which expert prediction you read, there is a fair chance that will continue. Farm machinery manufacturers think so too.
Here's how John Deere's fourth quarter financial report put it, “Worldwide sales of Deere's Agriculture and Turf Division are forecast to increase by 7 to 9 percent for full-year 2011, benefiting from generally favourable global farm conditions. Farmers in most of the company's key markets are experiencing solid levels of income due to strong global demand for agricultural commodities...” The other major manufacturers have seen good sales this year as well, and they are generally just as optimistic about the future.
According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), sales of four-wheel drive tractors and combines in Canada have been strong through 2010, seeing year-to-date increases to the end of November of 11.1 per cent and 4.7 per cent respectively. Overall, though, Canadian tractor sales are down slightly due to a significant decline in the 40 to 100 horsepower utility tractor segment.
But as the year draws to an end, manufacturers have to be pretty happy with their sales results. And the big three continue look at growing and expanding into underdeveloped markets like China and South America; as they do, we will likely see a lot of interesting news on the machinery front in 2011.
And speaking of news, keep an eye on this website and our print issues; we'll keep you posted on how things develop as the major manufacturers continue to battle it out to try and win the hearts and minds of farmers the world over. There will also be some great how-to articles appearing over the next few months in the Machinery and Shop section of the print edition; you won't want to miss any of it.
So as this year draws to a close, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.
On December 1st, Case IH announced it had just shipped the first production tractor that meets the U.S. EPA's Tier 4A emissions standards—a 180 Magnum, as it turns out. Officially, tractors over 175 horsepower manufactured after January 1st must comply with that regulation if they are to be sold in the U.S.
Although Canada's federal regulation governing off-road vehicle emissions has not yet been formally updated, it is expected it will fall into line with the EPA's in the next few months. That will harmonize regulations in the U.S., Canada and all of the European Union. So manufacturers will begin supplying tractors with the new technology to the Canadian market at the same time other countries get them.
That means farmers here will have to ante up for higher purchase prices because of the new technology, just like their U.S. and European counterparts. Generally, the January changeover date has had farmers in the U.S. moving their buying plans forward to snap up the last of the lower-cost, Tier 3-equipped models. Sales figures down there have been soaring in recent months because of it.
Paul Fortkamp, left, chats with Jim Walker, Case IH's North American VP, at the tractor assembly plant in Wisconsin. Fortkamp is the first farmer to purchase a Case IH tractor that uses Tier 4A engine emissions technology. Photo: courtesy Case IH.
But Paul Fortkamp, a Fort Recovery, Ohio, producer who farms poultry, corn and soybeans decided to buck that trend and buy Case IH's first Tier 4A tractor. Instead of getting one of the last Tier 3 engine designs, he went for the new technology. Part of the reward for that decision, according to Case IH, is he gets the title of “world's first” farmer to take delivery of a tractor with Tier 4A technology. Despite the likely higher purchase price, Fortkamp says he's taking a long-term view of costs and wants the new engine in order to save on operating expenses.
“The SCR technology makes the 180 more fuel efficient, which is important for me as I try to reduce my input costs,” he said through Case IH's press release. “It’s also the perfect size for my operation. It’s narrow enough for my rows, but big enough for a grain cart.”
At a ceremony at the company's Racine, Wisconsin, assembly plant, Fortkamp was introduced to his new workhorse as it stood at the end of the assembly line. It, like all of Case IH's new high horsepower tractors, uses selective catalytic reduction technology to meet emissions standards, which means adding a diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to reduce NOx emissions.
Executives in charge of marketing at Case IH have been emphasizing that despite the need to use DEF, the new engines—designed by Fiat Powertrain Technologies—are capable cutting operating costs by 10 per cent. Depending on the number of operating hours per year, that could be a substantial saving.
In fact, all the manufacturers are claiming their new Tier 4A engines are thrifty and cost effective, even when compared to previous Tier 3 designs. It would be nice if farmers could save operating costs while saving the planet at the same time. Now that he has his new tractor, Mr. Fortkamp will be one of the first to find out for himself if that can really be done.