Farmers more likely to have 2 jobs, agriculture census says

Almost half of Canadian farmers supplement their farm income with second jobs, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday.

Biggest jump in off-farm jobs seen in Alberta and Saskatchewan

The number of farms and farmers continues to drop, and almost half of Canadian farmersnow work second jobs to supplement their farm income, Statistics Canada reportedWednesday.

In its 2006 census of agriculture, the agency said 48.4 per cent of farmers had an off-farm job or business last year, up from 44.5 per cent in the 2001 census.

The percentage of farmers working off farm grew in every province from Quebec westward, with the biggest jumps in Alberta and Saskatchewan.The federal agency attributed that to the boom in theoil industry in recent years.

The census also found a continuation of a trend that has been in place since the 1940s — the falling number of farms and farmers in Canada.

There were 229,373 farms a year ago —down more than 17,000 from 2001. Every provinceexperienced a dropin the number of farms, with the biggest declines in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The number of farmersdropped by 19,140 to 327,060. They're also getting older. In2001, the average farm operator was 50 years old. Five years later, the average was 52. About two in every five farmers are now over the age of 55, StatsCan said.

At the same time, Statistics Canada said, the average size of a Canadian farm grew — from an average of 273 hectares in 2001 to 295 hectares in 2006 — as the total amount of land being farmed remained about the same.

The number of "million-dollar" farms — those with receipts of $1 million or more after adjusting for inflation— jumped by almost a third to 5,902. While these operations accounted for just 2.6 per cent of all farms, they brought in almost 40 per cent of total farm revenues last year.

Hog and chicken farms were most likely to report receipts of $1 million or more — field crop farms were least likely.

At the other end of the spectrum, two-thirds of all farms reported gross income of less than $100,000.

44% of farms reported an operating loss

The census also found that more than two in every five farms (44.2 per cent)did not have enough income last year to cover their operating expenses.

The biggest farms were most likely (86 per cent) to report an operating profit, while the smallest farms — with gross receipts of $25,000 or less — covered their basic costsbarely a quarter of the time.

Statistics Canada said farms are getting more efficient. The agency noted that in the five years since its last census, farmers' input costs rose fasterthan the prices they received for their products.

Despite that, farmers were spending about the same in 2006 relative to their receipts as they did in 2001 — 86 cents in expenses for every $1 in receipts.

"Improved efficiency, increased program payments and higher production helped to keep the ratios between expenses and receipts stable, despite this inflationary imbalance," Statistics Canada said.