Statistics Canada has released the results from the 2016 Census of Agriculture.
Findings show that farm operators are slightly older and there are fewer farms in Canada than in 2011.
The 2016 Census of Agriculture counted 271,935 farm operators on agricultural operations, down from 293,925 in 2011. Farm operators under 35 years of age accounted for an increasing share of total operators and their absolute numbers also rose from 24,120 in 2011 to 24,850 in 2016. This was the first absolute increase in this category of operators since 1991.
However, the fastest growing age group was farm operators aged 55 years and older. The average age of operators—individuals who make management decisions for the agricultural enterprise—edged up from 54.0 years in 2011 to 55.0 years in 2016. This trend parallels the ageing of the general population.
Women account for an increasing share of farm operators, rising from 27.4% in 2011 to 28.7% in 2016. In the 2016 Census of Agriculture, 77,970 women were listed as farm operators. Women were most prevalent among farm operators aged 35 to 54 years (30.7%), followed by those aged 55 and older (27.7%) and those under 35 years of age (26.4%).
Farms are on average larger and more area is devoted to crop production. 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 the marginal land was converted into productive cropland.
Oilseed and grain-type farms remain the most common type of farm, increasing from 30.0% in 2011 to 32.9% in 2016. In the Prairie provinces, 46.3% of farms fell into this farm type. Beef-type farms remain the second most common farm type, accounting for 18.6% of agricultural operations, up slightly from 18.2% in 2011.
There has been an expansion of soybeans, corn for grain and corn for silage in the Prairie provinces, the result of new varieties suitable to the growing conditions of the region. Soybean area in Manitoba more than doubled—from 705,032 acres in 2011 to 1,645,397 acres in 2016.
The value of land and buildings used by agricultural operations increased 37.5%, from $311.2 billion in 2011 to $427.9 billion (in 2016 constant dollars) in 2016. The national average value for land and buildings on farms was $2,696 per acre.
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. Rounded to the nearest cent, the ratio was unchanged from 2010.
Agricultural operations in Canada employed over 280-thousand people in 2015. From a trade perspective, agricultural goods accounted for 2.2% of Canada's total imports and 4.6% of total exports.