Fewer, bigger farms in province

Disappearing here at fastest rate in Canada


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The face of farming in Canada is changing and nowhere is that more evident than in Manitoba.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/05/2012 (3973 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The face of farming in Canada is changing and nowhere is that more evident than in Manitoba.

New 2011 census data Statistics Canada released Thursday show Manitoba farms were disappearing at a faster pace than anywhere else between 2005 and 2011, declining by 16.7 per cent to 15,877.

And the shift to larger farming operations was also happening at a faster pace than almost anywhere else. The average size of a Manitoba farm grew by 13.4 per cent to 1,135 acres during that same five-year period, which was second only to Saskatchewan’s 15.1 per cent.

The changes are part of a national trend that saw the number of farms counts fall in nine of the country’s 10 provinces and farm sizes increase in eight of the 10. Canada saw its farm count drop by 10.3 per cent to 205,730 and its average farm size increase by 6.9 per cent to 778 acres.

Statistics Canada said the decline in farm counts is a continuation of a trend that first surfaced in 1941.

Local farm-industry experts said consolidation has been the main driving force behind the declining farm counts and the shift to bigger operations.

Brian Oleson, head of the University of Manitoba’s agribusiness and agri-economics department, and Derek Brewin, an associate professor in the department, said the soaring cost of machinery and crop inputs are forcing grain farms to get bigger to stay profitable. And high grain prices are giving them the financial clout to do it.

At the same time, a growing number of smaller operators who see the writing on the wall are either selling their farms to take advantage of high land prices, or renting the land to bigger operators, Oleson said.

“So it becomes a time where it makes the most sense not only for the guy that wants to sell, but for the guy that wants to buy,” Brewin added. “It ends up being a win-win.”

The Statistics Canada numbers also show a growing shift away from livestock to grain and oilseed production, both here and nationally.

Oleson said high grain prices and growing uncertainty within the livestock industry are the two main reasons for the shift in production.

He said the BSE crisis of a few years ago and more stringent country-of-origin labelling requirements in the U.S. have created a lot of uncertainty for livestock producers. High grain prices have also driven up the cost of livestock feed.

“So what you’re seeing is the grain side becoming a more and more profitable industry and the livestock side becoming a more and more costly and vulnerable industry.”

But while the number of farms in Canada is shrinking and the face of farming is changing, Alfons Weersink, professor of agriculture at the University of Guelph, said digging deeper into the census data reveals a sector that’s still in fairly robust health.

“The last several years have been good for most of agriculture,” Weersink said. “Profits have been up, prices have been increased quite significantly from the last census… There’s been a significant boost up.”

Weersink cites the growing number of larger, commercial farms as evidence of the industry’s strength.



— with files from The Canadian Press



Ag-sector trends

by the numbers


— IN Manitoba, the number of large farms (with $500,000 or more in annual gross farm receipts) jumped 25.7 per cent between 2005 and 2011, to 2,490. They now represent 15.7 per cent of all farms in the province, and accounted for 73.2 per cent of total receipts in 2010.

— Farmland acreage declined at the third-fastest rate (down 5.5 per cent to just over 18 million acres in 2011).

— Gross farm receipts increased by 7.8 per cent to $5.3 billion between 2005 and 2010. That was more than double the national average increase of 3.9 per cent.

— The number of farm operators shrank by 16.2 per cent to 22,315.

— The average age of a farm operator climbed to 53.1 years from 51.2 years in 2006.

— The number of farm operators who worked more than 40 hours a week on their farm dropped to 46.6 per cent from 52.6 per cent.

— The number of farm operators who had an off-farm job or business dipped to 46.7 per cent

— There were 900,000 fewer acres of cropland in the province in 2011 than in 2006 — 10.7 million versus 11.6 million.

— Canola is now the No. 1 crop in the province, surpassing spring wheat in acreage — 3.3 million acres versus 2.6 million.

— Despite a 66 per cent decrease since 2006, Manitoba still boasted the highest sunflower acreage in the country in 2011, at 63,380 acres.

— It also boasted the second-highest soybean acreage in the country, at 705,032 acres (up 101.1 per cent from 2006), and the second highest potato acreage after P.E.I., at 72,043 acres.

— The number of acres of corn for feed has grown by 40.4 per cent to 211,148 in 2011.

— The province’s pig herd fell by 2.8 per cent to 2.9 million animals in 2011, while beef cattle dropped by 23.9 per cent to 550,642 animals.


— source: Statistics Canada

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