Alberta farmers worried for this year in spite of record cash earnings last year
Agriculture Canada says 2015 farmer net income up 6% over 2014, or $15B, but decline expected in year ahead
A new Agriculture Canada report says Canadian farmers earned record net cash incomes last year — that's the money they make after expenses.
The report, 2016 Canadian Agricultural Outlook, says net cash income for farmers nationally increased six per cent in 2015 to $15 billion over the previous year.
But people in rural areas around Calgary are not celebrating any records.
They are telling a more nuanced story.
Brent McBean and his family own a farm south of Strathmore.
He isn't impressed with word of income gains for farmers.
"It's a positive sign, but is it a true reflection on the health of the agriculture economy?" he asks.
The report says low oil means cheaper gas and a low dollar means better crop prices on global markets, which in theory means more net income after expenses.
"The fact that we're at $1.30 exchange makes a difference. If we were par, this would be a lot different story," McBean explained.
Some people in Strathmore say any word of gains made by farmers last year seemed to be offset by the downturn in the oil patch when talking about the economic impact on the community.
Strathmore resident Misty Ballard says this economic news has to be put in a larger context.
"This year seems to be really tight. Jobs are down," Ballard tells CBC News.
"Everyone's really nervous about what's next."
Colleen Ballard is a farmer in the area.
She says farmers are not exactly opening up their wallets just yet.
"So many variables, it's ongoing," Ballard said.
"Farmers are generally pretty careful around here."
Meanwhile, the agricultural outlook does forecast a decline of nine percent in 2016 to $13.6 billion, but notes that figure is still 14 per cent higher than the 2010-2014 average.