Farming Amid Pipelines, But Not Energy East

Soybean harvest is progressing across Ontario as great weather has benefited all those concerned. In my own case, I only started this past Monday, as my crop was later than normal. However, here I sit on Thursday night and I am more than half done soybeans. One neighbour farmer commented to me the other morning that I should’ve worked all night, as there was no dew. I responded by telling him that I always quit when I’m tired because that’s when I start making mistakes.

He commented to me that he had worked till 2 o’clock in the morning, combining soybeans until he ran out of fuel and trucks. Needless to say, what am I supposed to do? I think at age 58 I do about the best I can. Safety is so much more of a concern now and I surely don’t want to make those harvest mistakes.

I think for the most part yields are down across Ontario. However, like always it differs by region. In my own case my first two big fields were better than average but I’m now into my problem fields which are lower than average. Looking back, the wet spring of 2017 really affected me especially soybeans. I started planting soybean in June and my last fields planted showed no mercy. They didn’t come up very well and it was too late to do much about it. That’s farming for you; I made good plans all winter only to have those conditions deteriorate into late June. Over a career, these risks are normal, but it never makes it easier when you drive the combine through a field less than stellar.

Of course, my combine radio crackles with the news of the day. Some of this is not very good, as it seems almost every media outlet is still talking about the terrible tragedy that happened last week in Las Vegas. However, there was big news in Canada today as TransCanada announced the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline and the related Eastern Mainline proposals. This was a bit of a bombshell across the country exasperating the regional tensions that have always existed here.

The Energy East project was a big deal. This project would’ve consisted of a pipeline to carry oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan across the country to be processed in New Brunswick. TransCanada was planning on adding 1500 km of new pipeline to the existing network of 3000 km. Some of this would have had to be converted to carrying oil instead of natural gas.

For Western Canada the Energy East project was yet another attempt to garner better energy prices to off shore markets. Getting oil to Tidewater is always a priority for many Western Canadian provincial governments. On the other hand, the provincial government of New Brunswick wanted to see the pipeline built for all the resource jobs it would bring to the province. In between, there was a lot of farmland that would have to be traveled over to get from one point to the other. Some of those farmers like the idea and other farmers did not like it. There are many opinions all along the route.

The Premier of Saskatchewan Brad Wall was severely critical of the Liberal government handling of the Energy East project. In fact, he said and I quote, “Today is not a good day for Canada. It is not a good day for the federation. It is a very bad day for the West.” On the other hand, MontrĂ©al Mayor Dennis Coderre called the cancellation a major victory for municipalities and indigenous groups. Clearly, there is lots of blame to go around. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
It is an interesting conundrum partly based on our Canadian history. Pipelines have been thought of as strategic economic levers that help balance regional interests. At the same time we know that the long-term demand for oil is declining. TransCanada says this is a business decision. Our government is scrambling to put a good story together with so many accusers and so many disappointed faces.
I would not have been directly affected by the Energy East project, but I know farmers who would be. I know one individual who was very much in favor of the pipeline and I know others who were very much against, as they presently have several pipelines running through their land.
It was a $36 Billion project, nothing to sneeze at in Canadian terms. However, it’s all history now. The West might blame the East and this time, even the East might be blaming the East. You can be sure the political fall out from this will reverberate long into the future.

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