Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Research: Preliminary 2016 Ag Census Results

StatCan has started the roll out of the results of the 2016 agricultural census (this often takes place over the course of a year or 18 months). Some of the early results of the Ag Census for Alberta are as follows:

The number of farms in Alberta dropped between 2011 and 2016 by 6.0%. This is similar to the national trend (down 5.9%). This change is also consistent consistent with the long-term trend in Alberta. Further data releases will be necessary to tease out what kinds of farms disappeared.

This data indicates that, so far, fears that Bill 6 would cause producers to close up shop enmasse have not materialized. To be fair, Bill 6 was passed in late 2015 and the Ag Census data was collected starting in early 2016, so we may see an increased rate of farm closures in the 2021 census.

I did not see any Alberta specific and detailed data about changes in farm size or gross receipts. I would bet we’ll see a continued growth in very large farms at the expense of small and medium-sized farms.

The data I’m most interested in seeing has to do with the hiring of employees. I could not find any province-level data but, at the national level, total employees numbers dropped 5.8% between 2010 and 2015. There was also a shift towards hiring year-round employees (full-time and part-time) and away from seasonal employees. As in past years, a minority of farms hired most of the employees:
Agricultural operations with high gross farm receipts accounted for a smaller proportion of agricultural operations but employed a larger share of employees. Almost half (46.8%) of all employees were employed by agricultural operations with receipts of $1 million or more in 2015, while these agricultural operations represented 7.6% of total agricultural operations.
It will be interesting to see both what trends are evident when we get Alberta specific data and what political use get made of them.

-- Bob Barnetson

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