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Census of Agriculture counts 19,844 farms in British Columbia

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On May 16, 2006, the Census of Agriculture counted 19,844 farms in British Columbia, a 2.2% decrease during the past five years. This is well below the 7.1% decrease seen at the national level. On Census Day, there were 1,991 fewer farms in British Columbia compared to 1996. A census farm is an agricultural operation that produces an agricultural product intended for sale.

British Columbia accounted for 8.7% of Canada’s 229,373 farms in 2006, slightly higher than its share in 2001. British Columbia’s total number of farms ranked fifth in Canada.

At the same time, British Columbia reported 29,870 farm operators, a 1.5% decline from 2001.

Farm area

Farms in British Columbia averaged 353 acres of land in 2006, up from 315 acres five years earlier.

Total area of land on farms in British Columbia rose 9.6% between 2001 and 2006 to 7.0 million acres. It has about 4.2% of the total farm area in Canada.

Farmers reported 1.4 million acres of cropland in BC in 2006, down from 2001. The province accounts for about 1.6% of all cropland area in the nation. Cropland is the total area in field crops, fruits, vegetables, sod and nursery.

Farm finance

British Columbia’s total gross farm receipts were $2.7 billion in 2005, while operating expenses reached $2.4 billion.

Government-funded program payments contributed significantly to gross farm receipts. Farmers themselves contribute to many of these programs by paying premiums much like any insurance plan. According to Statistics Canada data on direct program payments to agriculture producers, in 2000 for British Columbia, 1.7% of receipts were from program payments; by 2005 the proportion had grown to 4.5%. The actual value of these payments increased from $38.5 million to $120.2 million (in current dollars) during this period.

According to the farm input price index (FIPI) and the farm product price index (FPPI), the inflation over this period on prices farmers had to pay for the inputs they purchased rose more quickly than the inflation on the prices they received for the products they sold —9.6% for inputs versus 4.2% for products sold. At the Canada level, farm input prices rose 8.6% while farm product prices rose only 1.7%.

Overall, improved efficiency, increased program payments, and higher production have helped to keep the ratios between expenses and receipts relatively stable. British Columbia’s farm operators were spending an average of 90 cents in expenses (excluding depreciation) for every dollar of receipts in 2005, about 1 cent less than they spent in 2000.

The number of farms with less than $250,000 (at 2005 constant prices) of gross farm receipts declined by 2.9% between censuses and those with $250,000 or more (at 2005 constant prices) increased by 4.5%. There were 2,019 of these larger farms in British Columbia in 2006, and while they only represented 10.2% of farms in the province, they accounted for 80.8% of total provincial gross farm receipts reported for the year 2005.

Organic farms

According to the census there were 3,232 farms with organic production in British Columbia on census day, 16.3% of all farms in the province. Nationwide, 6.8% of all farms reported organic production.

For the first time, farmers were able to report on their census forms the status of organic products grown or raised. Of the 3,232 farms reporting organic products in British Columbia, 14.0% produced certified organic products, 2.3% were in transition to becoming certified and 85.6% produced organic products but were not certified by a Certifying Agency. Farms can indicate more than one organic status.

The predominant group of organic products grown in British Columbia was animal or animal products. They were reported on 56.2% of the province’s organic farms.

Farm operators

Of British Columbia’s 29,870 operators in 2006, 36.5% were women, largely unchanged five years earlier. Nationally, 27.8% of farm operators in 2006 were women.

In 2005, about 31.1% of farmers worked more than 40 hours a week on their farm operations, relatively unchanged from 31.5% five years earlier. Nationwide, 46.7% of farmers worked more than 40 hours per week on their farms.

Over half (54.9%) of all farm operators had an off-farm job or business in 2005, compared to 52.8% in 2000. At the national level, 48.4% of farm operators had an off-farm job or business.

Census a snapshot

In spring 2006, when the data from the 2006 Census of Agriculture were being collected, farmers were facing a spring that had been preceded by one challenge after another: bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), avian influenza, circovirus in pigs, falling commodity prices and the rising cost of fertilizers, fuels and other inputs. Since then, some commodity prices have improved, particularly those associated with alternative fuel sources, and even the beleaguered beef industry is showing some recovery after four years of BSE-inflicted hardship. It’s a situation that offers an important reminder that the Census of Agriculture is a snapshot of Canada’s agriculture sector every five years and that the census cannot measure the rapid changes that wax and wane between census years.

Other highlights of British Columbia agriculture

  • In 2006 British Columbia had the largest area in the country for apricots, raspberries and cranberries.
  • Greenhouse area grew to 57.3 million square feet, a 14.7% increase since 2001. The province holds close to a quarter (24.0%) of the total greenhouse area in Canada.
  • Nursery area rose 7.1% since 2001 to 11,132 acres. British Columbia had 18.1% of all nursery area in Canada.
  • British Columbia is third in terms of total acres of vegetables, behind Ontario and Quebec. The province reported 17,192 acres in 2006 down 4.4% since 2001.
  • With 2.4 million square feet of mushrooms, British Columbia had 35.9% of Canada’s area of mushrooms.
  • The number of bison rose by 41.2% in British Columbia between censuses to 12,656 head. British Columbia had 6.5% of Canada’s bison.
  • Dairy cows rose 1.9% to 72,756 head in 2006. They make up 7.3% of dairy cows in Canada. Newfoundland and Manitoba were the only other provinces to show increases in dairy cows.
  • Total cattle and calves in the province declined 1.7% to 800,855 head in 2006. They represent 5.1% of total cattle and calves in Canada.
  • In British Columbia, no-till methods were used on 19.1% of the land prepared for seeding in 2006, up from 14.2% in 2001. Conventional tillage fell to 54.8% of land prepared for seeding, from 64.8% five years earlier. Conservation tillage was used on 26.1% of the land prepared for seeding in 2006, up from 21.0% in 2001.
  • In 2006, 997 farms in British Columbia farms reported farm-related injuries that required medical attention in the previous 12 months. Injuries were reported on 5.0% of farms in British Columbia compared to 6.0% of all farms across Canada.
  • In 2006, 45.8% of operations in British Columbia reported using a computer for farm business, compared to 40.1% in 2001.

Statistics Canada would like to thank the farming community of British Columbia for their participation and assistance in the 2006 Census of Agriculture.

For more information on this release, contact Gaye Ward (613-951-3172), Census of Agriculture, or Media Relations (613-951-4636).


Notes:

Direct program payments to producers represent the amounts paid under various government agricultural programs to agriculture producers. Farmers themselves contribute to many of these programs by paying premiums much like any insurance plan.

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