Lower grain and oilseed prices took a bite out of Manitoba farmers' incomes in the first few months of 2014.
First-quarter data released Tuesday by Statistics Canada show farm cash receipts in Manitoba were down 5.2 per cent from the first three months of 2013 -- $1.7 billion versus $1.8 billion.
Farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan fared even worse. They saw their cash receipts plummet 16.8 per cent and 15.3 per cent, respectively, the two biggest declines among the seven provinces that posted weaker Q1 totals.
That, in turn, drove down Canadian farm cash receipts by 9.6 per cent to $14.2 billion from $15.7 billion in the first quarter of 2013.
This year's first-quarter decline was a big change from a year ago, when Manitoba posted the biggest farm cash-receipts increase in the country at 15.4 per cent.
Farm cash receipts measure the gross revenue for farm operators and include money earned from the sale of crops and livestock and from government support programs. They are not the farmers' bottom line, because farmers still must deduct expenses for items such as fertilizer, farm fuel, loan payments and depreciation in the value of machinery and equipment.
Statistics Canada said one of the main reasons for the decline in farm cash receipts this year is a big drop in income from the sale of crops. Crop receipts were down 17.6 per cent nationally ($7.8 billion versus $9.5 billion) and 7.8 per cent in Manitoba ($1.1 billion versus $1.2 billion).
Livestock receipts were up 10.1 per cent nationally ($5.9 billion versus $5.4 billion) and 19.2 per cent in Manitoba ($568.2 million versus $476.8 million) as producers reaped the benefits of record or near-record hog, cattle and calf prices, the agency said.
It said the decline in crop receipts was mainly due to lower prices for major grains and oilseeds.
"Crop prices began to drop in August 2013, reversing a growth trend that had started in September 2010," Statistics Canada said.
"Grain and oilseed prices came under downward pressure as production in the United States and the rest of the world recovered, adding to global supplies. As well, Canadian production of most field crops increased in 2013 compared with 2012."
Because of last year's record crop in Western Canada, farmers filed fewer crop-insurance claims, so payments from government support programs were down 43.8 per cent in Canada in Q1 ($466 million versus $$829.8 million),and down 63 per cent in Manitoba ($55.1 million versus $148.7 million).