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The Decline of Farming in Canada

Updated on June 5, 2015
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Global Food Crisis Facts

  • The U.S butchered 11 million cattle but so did Canada in 2012
  • That is 1 cow for every 20 people in the U.S and 1 cow for every 3 people in Canada
  • The amount of farms sharply declined from 1976 to present less 140,000 farms in Canada
  • Since 1991, the total number of Canadian farms decreased by 74,439 farms to reach 205,730 in 2011
  • Food costs are rising, grain prices were up 40% last year and 130% this year
  • The World Bank reports that the cost of food staples has jumped up by 80% since 2005
  • The price of rice rose to a 19 year high last year and wheat to a 28 year cost high
  • The World Bank reports that 33 countries in the world face social unrest due to 'acute hikes in food and energy prices'

Sharp Decline in Farms in Canada

It is time for Canada to face challenging facts about the decline of farming in our country. The situation is on the verge of national crisis for many crucial reasons. Farmers in central Alberta, Canada have confidentially confided that they predict a food market crash within the next 5 years. This potential crash is expected to be the result of waste, higher demand and climate change. Can you imagine a Canada where families will be forced to pay increasingly high prices and perhaps even ration food in this decade? If you follow all the declining graphs and trends, there is no other conclusion. Once you examine the data, you might lose some sleep over it, too.

Canada faces some serious consequences. Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture reports there are fewer farms and larger farms as a result of smaller farms being absorbed by neighboring farms. A sharp decline in farms has taken place since 1946 and markedly since 1976 as depicted in the graph below. The average age of the Canadian farmer is 55 years and there are very few younger farmers.

The trends of fewer farmers and fewer farms has shown no sign of reversing in the past 50 years. There has been very little investment in or promotion of agriculture education and training for young people in Canada. There has been no incentives put forth to make farming attractive to youth. Youth are moving to the city and giving up life on the family farms for other more lucrative opportunities.

Therefore, there are no youth available or trained to replace the aging farmer population. This trend shows no signs reversing any time soon and depicts a situation where there will be exchanges and sales of Canadian farms to other farms, private farms or immigrant farmers. It means there will unfortunately be corporate farms in the near future, business taken away from the Canadian citizen. Immigrant farmers are very unlikely to work Canadian farms anytime soon as new strict immigration laws have all but put a halt to immigration in Canada.

Decline in Dairy Cows in Canada

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Decline in Number of Seed Growers

Decline in Farm Incomes vs Urban Incomes

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Climate change is one of the most menacing obstacles to food diversity, food security, and biodiversity around the world. Seedmap.org shows how increasingly unpredictable and more frequent weather extremes are impacting small-holder farmers.

The Climate Game Changer

Scientists report and predict more incidents of extreme heat, severe drought, and heavy rains to affect food production. Food production has been significantly affected with severe drought in the southern U.S. and flooding in Canada has led to lesser crop yields. Canada is the winner in the world at this time with its cooler and wetter climate, crop growth is maximized during growing season and additional resources are exported to the U.S. But Canada experiences very long winters where food must be imported from other countries like Central and South America which is experiencing severe climate changes and droughts as well. What happens to the Canadian food market in the winter months when climate change ravages southern crops? What then?

Climate change in Canada is a real threat for the near future and we are seeing the effects of it now with floods, glacier melt and severe storms. Most of western Canada depends on glacier melt for agricultural purposes. With reduced glacier melt comes less stream flow into the prairies where it is direly needed as agriculture is dependent on irrigation. Although presently glacier and ice sheet melt is expected to cause flooding, in the longer term, drought is a serious concern due to warming arctic temperatures.

Chart of Temperature Increases 1948 - 2004

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The Final Count Down

Urban centers, where most people reside in condensed populations, will be most affected by the decline in farming and limited future food resources. It is foolish and naïve to believe the governments will solve these issues in time considering it has neglected the issue of agricultural decline for the past fifty years. Although Stats Canada issues reports on farm declines, this is not an indepth study that this subject direly requires. Furthermore, there are no resolutions coming forth from government to deal with climate change or agriculture in the coming years in the face of stark decline. It is logical therefore to predict that crisis must arrive before bureaucracy addresses the issue. This is the saddest fact of all, is that it may be too late in 2-5 years as is predicted by local farmers in Canada.

What are the possible solutions?

  • Investing in agriculture training programs for youth and adults
  • Provide scholarships and incentives for youth to enter agricultural programs
  • Invest funds now in the agricultural sector through grant and subsidy programs
  • Increase government transfer payments to farms and farmers to increase their incomes relative to that of urban incomes
  • Invest in local organic and urban farms including year round farming horticulture
  • Create community and cooperative garden programs in the inner city and urban centers
  • Focus on conservation and organic agricultural practices
  • Encourage purchases of Canadian farms by and for Canadians
  • Provide market protections for Canadian farming businesses
  • Banks may provide lending programs for youth to purchase farms

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