WINNIPEG — Statistics Canada has confirmed what many in the local agriculture sector already knew — 2013 was a good year to be a grain farmer in Manitoba.

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WINNIPEG — Statistics Canada has confirmed what many in the local agriculture sector already knew — 2013 was a good year to be a grain farmer in Manitoba.

Recent data showed Manitoba reaped the country’s largest increase in farm cash receipts — 14.7 per cent — over the first nine months of this year. Total receipts jumped to $4.3 billion from $3.8 billion in the same period in 2012.

That was a far bigger gain than any other province except New Brunswick, which saw an 11.9 per cent increase. It was also seven times the national average increase of only 1.9 per cent ($39.9 billion versus $39.2 billion).

Farm cash receipts measure the gross revenue for farm operators, and include the money earned from the sale of crops and livestock, and from government support programs. However, they are not the farmers’ bottom line because they still have to deduct their expenses for things like fertilizer, farm fuel and loan payments, as well as depreciation of their machinery and equipment.

The data shows local grain farmers fared particularly well, with crop receipts up 28.7 per cent — also the largest gain of any province. Livestock receipts grew by a much-more-modest 2.9 per cent.

The president of the province’s largest farm group — the Keystone Agriculture Producers — agreed 2013 was a “blockbuster” year for many local grain growers.

“Manitoba grew a big crop, no doubt about it,” Doug Chorney said, “as did Saskatchewan and Alberta.”

But Chorney said the main reason cash receipts for the first nine months of this year look so good is because 2012’s numbers were so bad. A combination of spring flooding and a summer drought in 2011 took a huge bite out of that year’s harvest, which meant farmers had very little grain to sell in 2012. And that dramatically reduced cash receipts for the first nine months of last year, he explained.

He also noted the cost of key inputs like farm fuel and fertilizer continued to rise in 2012 and the first half of 2013, which drove up operating costs. Livestock producers also had to deal with skyrocketing feed costs because of higher grain and corn prices.

“So it (higher 2013 farm cash receipts) is a good news story, but by no means does this mean farmers are rolling in the money.”

Thanks to this year’s bumper crop, Chorney said cash receipts for the final quarter of this year and the first nine months of next year should be pretty healthy as well, even though grain prices have fallen in recent months.

“There is still plenty (of grain) to ship this winter ... And we’re hopeful that we’ll see a firming of commodity prices for grains and for livestock ... But who knows.”

Statistics Canada also recently released the farm net income numbers for Canada and the provinces. They showed realized net income was down 38.2 per cent to $283 million from $458 million in 2011.

Canadian farmers saw their total realized net income jump by 31.7 per cent to $7.3 billion from $5.5 billion in 2012.

Realized net income is the difference between a farmer’s cash receipts and operating expenses, minus depreciation, plus income in kind.

» Winnipeg Free Press

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 30, 2013