To­tal num­ber of farm op­er­a­tions con­tin­ues down­ward trend

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - AGRI­CUL­TURE

The 2016 Cen­sus of Agri­cul­ture is show­ing farm op­er­a­tions are get­ting larger while the to­tal num­ber of farm op­er­a­tions con­tin­ues to shrink.

The cen­sus data re­leased by Statis­tic Canada to­day notes that in 2016 there were 193,492 farms, down 5.9 per cent from the pre­vi­ous cen­sus in 2011. Sta­tis­tics Canada did high­light that this was the low­est rate of de­cline in two decades.

And while farm num­bers have con­sol­i­dated, the av­er­age area per Cana­dian farm grew to 820 acres in 2016, a jump from 779 acres in 2011. Saskatchew­an boasts the largest farm sizes in Canada at an av­er­age size of 1,784 acres. And while farm size varies con­sid­er­ably based on re­gion and farm type, the small­est on av­er­age are lo­cated in New­found­land and Labrador at only 174 acres.

Crop­land acreage grew to 93.4 mil­lion acres, an in­crease of 6.9 per cent from 2011. This to­tal re­flects land that was flooded dur­ing 2011 be­ing brought back into pro­duc­tion, a de­crease in the use of sum­mer­fal­low, and the con­ver­sion of mar­ginal land into pro­duc­tive crop­land.

Field crop area grew from 69.7 mil­lion acres back in 2011 to a to­tal of 78.5 mil­lion acres in 2016. This in­crease largely oc­curred on the prairies, with 2011 flooded acres in Man­i­toba and Saskatchew­an now be­ing uti­lized.

How­ever, the to­tal farm area de­creased 0.9 per cent to 158.7 mil­lion acres com­pared to the to­tal of 160.2 mil­lion acres in 2011. A por­tion of this drop is at­trib­uted to the fact that land rental agree­ments tend to cover only pro­duc­tion land.

An­other key find­ing in the cen­sus was the shift­ing age of farm­ers. There were a to­tal of 271,935 farm op­er­a­tions in the 2016 cen­sus, a drop from 293,925 in 2011.

The to­tal num­ber of farm­ers aged 55 years and older in­creased to 54.5 per cent in 2016, a jump from 48.3 per cent in 2011. This cat­e­gory of farm­ers re­mains the fastest grow­ing age group. The av­er­age age of a Cana­dian farm­ers in 2016 was 55 years of age, a slight in­crease from 54 years in 2011.

How­ever the num­ber of farm­ers un­der the age of 35 is on the rise, grow­ing to 9.1 per cent in 2016 to in­crease from the 8.2 per cent in 2011. This was the first time the ab­so­lute num­bers in this cat­e­gory have grown since 1991, as there were 24,850 young pro­duc­ers in 2016, up from 24,120 in 2011.

Farm­ers in the 35 to 54 year age group de­creased to 36.3 per cent in 2016, a drop from 43.5 per cent in 2011.

The sta­tis­tics high­light that a larger per­cent­age of women are now farm op­er­a­tors, ris­ing from 27.4 per cent in 2011 to a to­tal of 28.7 per cent in 2016. Of the 77,970 women who were listed as farm op­er­a­tors in 2016, the largest per­cent­age were aged 35 to 54 years (30.7 per cent), fol­lowed by op­er­a­tors aged 55 and older (27.7 per cent), and those un­der 35 years of age (26.4 per cent).

Oilseed and grain-type farms re­main the most com­mon farm, grow­ing to 32.9 per cent in 2016, an in­crease from 30.0 per cent in 2011. Sta­tis­ti­cally 46.3 per cent of farms in the prairie prov­inces are oilseed and grain-type farms.

The top seeded field crop in 2016 was canola at 20.6 mil­lion acres. That is a ma­jor swing from the 3.4 mil­lion acres of canola seeded back in 1981.

The sec­ond most pop­u­lar crop was spring wheat at 15.69 mil­lion acres, but this has dipped from 25.7 mil­lion acres in 1981.

The other top film crops and hay dur­ing 2016 were: 3) Al­falfa and al­falfa mix­tures - 9.27 mil­lion acres; 4) Bar­ley - 6.69 mil­lion acres; 5) Du­rum wheat - 6.06 mil­lion acres; 6) Soy­beans - 5.61 mil­lion acres; 7) Lentils - 5.58 mil­lion acres; 8) All other tame hay - 4.85 mil­lion acres.

The size of the beef breed­ing herd was 4.4 mil­lion an­i­mals in 2016, a drop of 1.0 per cent from the 4.5 mil­lion an­i­mals in the 2011 cen­sus.

And while the av­er­age herd size per farm in­creased, there was an over­all de­cline in pro­ducer num­bers.

The live­stock sec­tor has been char­ac­ter­ized by ex­its and con­sol­i­da­tion. Thanks to strong de­mand for Cana­dian beef breed­ing stock from 2011 to 2016, Sta­tis­tics Canada notes that some pro­duc­ers chose to take ad­van­tage of higher prices to sell their cat­tle and fo­cus on other agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, such as crop pro­duc­tion, or opted to en­tirely leave farm­ing.

The num­ber of beef cat­tle de­creased to 6.88 mil­lion head in 2016, down 2.4 per cent from 2011. The num­ber of op­er­a­tions re­port­ing beef cat­tle de­clined 12.3 per cent to 62,760.

Over­all, among op­er­a­tions with beef cat­tle, they had an av­er­age of 110 head in 2016, up 11.3 per cent from 2011.

The two pri­mary seg­ments of the sec­tor re­main cow-calf op­er­a­tions spe­cial­iz­ing in rais­ing breed­ing stock and feed­lots spe­cial­iz­ing in feed­ing cat­tle des­tined for mar­ket. Just over 80 per cent of the to­tal beef cat­tle in Canada are raised in the prairie prov­inces.

On cow-calf op­er­a­tions, the av­er­age beef herd in­creased from 74 head in 2011 to 84 in 2016. Over the same pe­riod, feed­lot op­er­a­tions grew on av­er­age from 185 head of beef cat­tle in 2011 to 212 head in 2016.

Gross farm re­ceipts to­talled $69.4 bil­lion in 2015, while op­er­at­ing ex­penses reached $57.5 bil­lion. On av­er­age, for ev­ery dol­lar in gross farm re­ceipts, farms in­curred 83 cents in ex­penses in 2015 for an ex­pense-to-re­ceipt ra­tio of 0.83.

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