Summary of the Evaluation of the Census of Agriculture and Innovation in the Agriculture Statistics Program

The Agriculture Statistics Program (ASP) is comprised of an integrated set of components including crop and livestock surveys, farm economic statistics, agri-environmental statistics, tax and other administrative data, research and analysis, remote sensing and the Census of Agriculture (CEAG). The statistical information produced by the CEAG is unique in its ability to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the industry and its people, as well as small area data, both of which are instrumental not only to the agricultural industry, but also for meeting the data requirements of environmental programs, health programs, trade and crisis management. ASP statistical information is used by a wide range of organizations, including different levels of government, not-for-profit and private organizations, academic institutions, and individual Canadians.

This evaluation was conducted by Statistics Canada in accordance with the Treasury Board Secretariat's Policy on Results (2016) and Statistics Canada's Risk-Based Audit and Evaluation Plan (2019/2020 to 2023/2024). The main objective of the evaluation was to provide a neutral, evidence-based assessment of the 2016 CEAG dissemination strategy, and of the design and delivery of the CEAG migration to the Integrated Business Statistics Program (IBSP). The evaluation also assessed projects in the broader ASP, with a focus on projects supporting Statistics Canada's modernization initiative.

The evaluation found that a majority of interviewees were satisfied with the dissemination of the 2016 CEAG and noted it was an improvement over 2011. Data tables were identified as the most used product. In terms of timeliness, interviewees were satisfied with the release of the first set of tables (farm operator data - one year after Census Day); however, the timeframe for releasing the remaining two sets of data tables affected their usefulness (2.5 years after Census Day for the last data table release with socioeconomic data). Gaps were also identified in cross-analysis with non-agricultural sectors and in emerging sectors, and in guidance for web tools.

The CEAG migration to the IBSP was proceeding as planned at the time of the evaluation. Efforts to resolve issues, such as those related to compatibilities between the Collection Management Portal (CMP) and the IBSP, and the availability of tools and capacity to support data quality assessments, were continuing. The start of the production phase will bring additional risks as new resources become involved and time pressures increase.

All ASP projects reviewed were aligned with the modernization pillars and expected results. Most of the projects focussed on increasing the use of data from alternative sources and integrating data. The evaluation found that while governance structures existed and regular monitoring was taking place, project management practices could be strengthened.

The evaluation proposed six recommendations:

Recommendation 1

For the 2021 CEAG, the Agriculture Division explore ways to improve the timeliness of the last two sets of data tables (historical data, and socio-economic data) and increase cross-analysis with non-agricultural sectors.

Recommendation 2

Web tools include guidance on how to use them and how to interpret data from them. A proactive approach to launching new tools should be taken. Webinars were identified as an effective channel and the use of other channels would allow for even a wider coverage.

Recommendation 3

Unresolved issues for the migration to the IBSP, including incompatibilities between the IBSP and the CMP as well as the IBSP processing capacity, are addressed prior to the production phase.

Recommendation 4

Significant risks during the production phase, particularly with regard to data quality assessments and the exercising of roles and responsibilities, are monitored and mitigated.

Recommendation 5

Planning processes for future projects falling outside the scope of the Departmental Project Management Framework include an initial assessment that takes into account elements such as risk, materiality, public visibility and interdependencies. The assessment should then be used to determine the appropriate level of oversight and project management.

Recommendation 6

Processes and tools for documenting and sharing of best practices are implemented and lessons learned from other organizations (internal and external) are leveraged.

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