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A snapshot of Canada’s ag industry

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Statistics Canada recently released the latest snapshot of the nation’s agriculture industry, using new data from the 2006 Census of Agriculture.

This is the first of a number of data releases from the census. All farm and operator data are available for free at www.stat.ca

Comprehensive information about agricultural operations across Canada, and the people managing those farms, is available in three reports: “Snapshot of Canadian Agriculture,” “The Financial Picture of Farms in Canada,” and “Farming in Canada’s CMAs.”

Here is a snapshot of some of the information:

Between 2001 and 2006, both the number of census farms in Canada and the number of farm operators continued their long-term decline. The census counted 229,373 census farms as of May 16, 2006—down 7.1 percent, or 17,550, from 2001.

At the same time, it counted 327,060 farm operators—a 5.5 percent decline, the equivalent of 19,140 people. The number of farms fell in every province.

Farm numbers have been declining steadily in Canada since 1941, though the decrease during the past five years was slower than the 10.7 percent drop between 1996 and 2001.

The lower numbers, however, do not tell the whole story about the capability of today’s agriculture industry to adapt.

For instance, Canada’s agricultural land base—the total amount of land on farms—remained virtually unchanged at just over 67.6 million hectares (167 million acres).

The size of the average farm rose from 273 hectares to 295 hectares (676 acres to 728 acres).

In 2005, gross farm receipts amounted to an estimated $42.2 billion, up 8.8 percent from 2000 (at 2005 constant prices).

This includes government program payments of $4.8 billion in 2005 (representing 11.4 percent of gross farm receipts), up from 6.9 percent of receipts in 2000—largely as an impact of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Total operating expenses rose 0.7 percent at 2005 constant prices to an estimated $36.4 billion.

Over this period, the prices farmers had to pay for the inputs they purchased rose more quickly than the prices they received for the products they sold.

Improved efficiency, increased program payments, and higher production helped to keep the ratios between expenses and receipts stable—despite this inflationary imbalance.

Operators were spending an average of 86 cents in expenses (excluding depreciation) for every dollar of receipts in 2005—about half-a-cent less than they had been in 2000.

Nationally, 55.8 percent of all farms reported gross farm receipts greater than their total operating expenses while 44.2 percent did not.

While the million-dollar farms are most likely to cover their operating expenses with their receipts, some farms among the smaller classes also are able to do so.

For instance, 28.6 percent of farms with gross receipts of less than $25,000 reported enough farm income to cover their expenses in 2005. These most likely were to be fruit and vegetable farms, and greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture operations.

In contrast, 86 percent of farms with receipts of $1 million or more reported enough farm receipts to cover their expenses.

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