The plight of farmers in Canada
I get the Daily from Statistics Canada in my email each morning, and periodically they report on “crushing statistics”, which I believe refers to the production of vegetable oils and such (I’m no farmer). Statistics Canada today released its Census of Agriculture, and it probably should also bear the title “crushing statistics”. Between the lines of the summary in The Daily, it looks like small farmers are getting creamed, something I reported on anecdotally after a family trip to Saskatchewan last summer.
Yet, the tone of the release suggests no cause for alarm. For example, under the heading “Many small farm operations are financially viable” we read:
Nationally, 55.8% of all farms reported gross farm receipts greater than their total operating expenses, while 44.2% did not.
While the million-dollar farms are most likely to cover their operating expenses with their receipts, some farms among the smaller classes are also able to do so.
For instance,Â 28.6% of farms with gross receipts of less thanÂ $25,000Â reported enough farm income to cover their expenses inÂ 2005. These were most likely to be fruit and vegetable farms, and greenhouse, nursery and floriculture operations.
In contrast,Â 86.0% of farms with receipts ofÂ $1Â million or more reported enough farm receipts to cover their expenses.
Then a few paragraphs down:
More farmers are working off the farm than five years ago. Nearly half (48.4%) of all farm operators reported an off-farm job or business on theÂ 2006Â Census, compared withÂ 44.5% inÂ 2001.
If more than two in five farmers, and nearly three-quarters of small farmers, are operating at a loss, the heading is highly misleading. A key reason is that between 2000 and 2005, “the prices farmers had to pay for the inputs they purchased rose more quickly than the prices they received for the products they sold.”
Essentially, small and medium size farmers – family farms – are subsidizing the food we eat, as they work off the farm, to ensure they can feed their families, and to at least ‘break even’ or not loss the family farm, as the prices they pay for inputs don’t cover what they receive when the product is sold.
Rising energy costs are going to kill the family farm unless we start choosing community-supported agriculture.