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Farm operators slightly older, fewer farms in Canada than in 2011

Staff Writer |
Farm operators are slightly older and there are fewer farms in Canada than in 2011, but farms are on average larger and more area is devoted to crop production according to the results from the 2016 Census of Agriculture.

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Over the next six weeks, articles digging deeper into different aspects of Canadian agriculture will be published with further analysis of census results.

Agricultural data has been collected in Canada since 1666 and 2016 marks the 22nd Census of Agriculture since Confederation. The census paints a sweeping picture of the agricultural sector.

It tracks changes in crops and livestock, as well as the evolution of farming practices and mechanization, from the power of horses to horsepower.

Canadian farmers have continually taken advantage of technological advances to more efficiently deliver a wider variety of agricultural products to Canadians and the world.

While total farm area edged down from 2011, the area dedicated to cropland rose to 93.4 million acres in 2016.

Although urbanization may reduce cropland available in some areas, a net increase in cropland is attributable to a shift in land use.

Farmers have converted land formerly used as pasture, summerfallow or other less productive land into productive area. Canola remains the biggest crop, accounting for more than one-fifth of all cropland.

The number of farm operators declined from 2011 while the average age continued to rise. However, the proportion of operators under 35 years of age edged up for the first time since 1991.

Despite the increase in the average age, only 1 in 12 operations reported having a formal succession plan laying out how the operation will be transferred to the next generation of farmers.

Primary agriculture accounted for 1.5% of national gross domestic product (agricultural gross domestic product) in 2013.

However, this percentage rises to 4.6% when agricultural input and service providers, primary producers, food and beverage processors, agriculture food retail and wholesale industries are taken into account (Statistics Canada. 2013. Special tabulation, based on 2013 gross domestic product by industry).

Agricultural operations in Canada employed 280,315 people in 2015. From a trade perspective, agricultural goods accounted for 2.2% of Canada's total imports and 4.6% of total exports (CANSIM table 228-0059, accessed April 13, 2017). In terms of value, almost one-third of Canadian agricultural production was exported in 2013 (CANSIM table 381-0033,accessed April 13, 2017).

The results of the 2016 Census of Agriculture show that the agriculture industry continues to consolidate.

There were 193,492 farms counted in 2016, down 5.9% from the previous census in 2011.

However, this was the lowest rate of decline in 20 years.

While farm numbers have declined, the average area per farm increased from 779 acres in 2011 to an average of 820 acres in 2016.

The area dedicated to cropland rose 6.9% from 2011 to 93.4 million acres in 2016, as land that was flooded during the 2011 Census was brought back into production, use of summerfallow decreased and marginal land was converted into productive cropland.


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