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Sharp decline in number of farms in Saskatchewan

Farm size
Farm receipts
Farm type
Computer use
Organic farms
Other highlights of Saskatchewan agriculture

Sharp decline in number of farms in Saskatchewan, according to 2001 Census of Agriculture

The number of census farms in Saskatchewan declined sharply between 1996 and 2001, continuing a long-term trend.

The 2001 Census of Agriculture counted 50,598 census farms in Saskatchewan, an 11.2% decline during the past five years, slightly higher than the national average of 10.7%. On Census Day, there were 24.8% fewer farms in Saskatchewan than two decades ago. (A census farm is an agricultural operation that produces an agricultural product intended for sale.)

Saskatchewan accounted for 20% of all Canadian farms in 2001, virtually the same share as in 1996. Saskatchewans total ranked third in Canada behind Ontario with 59,728 census farms and Alberta with 53,652.

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Farm size

On average, Saskatchewan has the largest farms in Canada. Farms averaged 1,283 acres in size in 2001, up from 1,152 acres five years earlier. This compares with second-place Alberta with 970 acres in 2001, and third-place Manitoba with 891 acres.

Total farmland in Saskatchewan declined 1.1% between 1996 and 2001 to 64,903,830 acres. It has nearly 40% of the agricultural land in Canada, almost 13 million more acres than second-place Alberta.

Farmers reported 37,994,752 acres of cropland in Saskatchewan in 2001, up 6.8% from 1996. The province now accounts for about 42% of all cropland area in the nation. Much of this increase was at the expense of summerfallow, which declined 29.3% to 7,738,453 acres. This decrease in summerfallow is in part due to increased adoption of reduced tillage which conserves soil moisture.

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Farm receipts

Saskatchewans total gross farm receipts were almost $5.9 billion in 2000, while operating expenses were just over $5.0 billion. While factors such as the commodities they produced, the prices they received and the weather they had to deal with made each farmers situation different, in general, expenses rose slightly faster than revenues. Five years earlier, at 1995 prices, receipts were $5.6 billion and expenses were $4.4 billion. (The 2001 Census collected information on gross receipts and expenses for 2000.)

Over the five-year period, prices farmers received for their products declined by 27.2%, while prices they paid for expenses such as fertilizer and fuel increased by 8.5%. Farmers, squeezed by increasing costs and declining value of many of the products they sold, had to increase farm productivity to keep the ratio of receipts-to-expenses favourable.

In 2000 in Saskatchewan, the ratio of operating expenses to gross farm receipts was 0.85:1; in other words, 85 cents of operating expenses were spent for every dollar received in gross farm receipts. This compares to 1995, when the expense to gross receipts ratio was 0.77:1. (Expenses collected on the census do not include depreciation.)

While the number of farms with less than $100,000 of gross farm receipts fell by 24.0 % between censuses, those with $100,000 or more increased by 28.7%. There were 17,777 of these larger farms in Saskatchewan in 2001, and while they represented 35% of farms in the province, they accounted for almost 80% of the total provincial gross farm receipts reported for the year 2000.

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Farm type

Grain and oilseed farms are the most common types of farms in Saskatchewan accounting for 43.5% of the farms, followed by cattle farms with 24.3% and wheat farms with 18.1%. Conversely, in 1996 wheat farms ranked first with 35.9%. The drop in the share of wheat farms reflects a shift away from wheat to other grains and cattle.

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Computer use

Computers were used on almost 35% of Saskatchewan farms in 2001, up from 20% in 1996 as compared to the national share of 39.4%.

The majority (76%) of farms reporting a computer used it for bookkeeping. About 74% of farms reported using the Internet, and 67% for e-mail.

Farms with higher sales were more likely to use a computer. Six out of ten farms with gross farm receipts over $250,000 reported using a computer, compared with less than one-quarter of farms with sales under $25,000.

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Organic farms

For the first time, farmers were able to report on their census forms that they produced certified organic commodities. (In Canada, a farmer who wishes to become "certified organic" must apply to a recognized certification agency.)

Saskatchewan ranked number one in organic farming in Canada. The census enumerated 773 Saskatchewan farms that produced at least one category of certified organic agricultural products. These farms represented more than one-third of the Canadian total.

The predominant certified organic product grown in Saskatchewan was field crops. They were reported on 93% of the provinces organic farms. One-half of all Canadian certified organic field crop farms were in Saskatchewan. This adoption of certified organic production in Saskatchewan reflects farmers strategies for adding value to the crops they grow and seeking higher value-per-acre alternatives to traditional crops and production methods.

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Other highlights of Saskatchewan agriculture:

  • Between 1996 and 2001, farmers moved away from traditional crops to alternatives that would reduce their input costs or increase their per-acre revenues. Wheat is still the largest single crop in Saskatchewan making up close to 40% of the area under field crops, but it, along with barley and oats, experienced reductions in area since the last census. The area devoted to wheat dropped 16.4% to 15.2 million acres since 1996.
  • The move from small grains was primarily the result of a switch to more pulse and oilseed crops. Pulses are not only a higher value crop than most grains, but they also require fewer inputs as they fix nitrogen that can be used by the crop. Dry field pea and lentil area both more than doubled between 1996 and 2001 and they were grown on more farms. Over a million acres were devoted to chick peas in Saskatchewan in 2001. The areas of oilseed, canola and flaxseed were up in 2001, although less dramatically than the pulses.
  • A total of 240 Saskatchewan farm operations reported growing Saskatoon berries on 916 acres. This was 31% of the Canadian total area. Saskatchewan ranked second for Saskatoon berry area after Alberta with 1,525 acres.
  • With the removal of the Western Grain Transportation Act in 1995, transportation costs to grain producers increased. This, along with decreasing grain prices and increasing livestock prices made the feeding of livestock a good alternative to selling grains. The 2001 Census of Agriculture results show this diversification.
  • Increases in cattle, hogs and sheep were registered between 1996 and 2001 in Saskatchewan. Less traditional livestock flourished bison on Saskatchewan farms increased from 7,006 to 34,781 and goats and llamas also increased.
  • In Saskatchewan, no-till or zero-till seeding was used on over one-third of the land seeded in 2001. Saskatchewan has adopted no-till seeding to a larger extent than any other province in Canada. Increases in no-till seeding were primarily at the expense of conventional tillage (which incorporates most of the crop residue into the soil) and, to a much lesser degree, conservation tillage (which retains most of the crop residue on the surface).
  • This move to environmentally-friendly tillage methods has accelerated with the introduction of equipment and plant varieties that are well-suited to this type of production. Not only does the environment benefitsoil moisture is retained for use by the cropthe farmer spends less time in the field and fewer tractor-hours are logged on machinery to accomplish seeding with conservation tillage and no-till seeding.

Statistics Canada thanks the Saskatchewan farming community for participating in the 2001 Census of Agriculture.

A full statistical portrait of Canadian agriculture is available on Statistics Canadas Website (/) through The Daily, the Agencys official release bulletin.

This press release contains data for the province, census agricultural region (CAR), census division (CD) levels only. The data for the lowest level of geography, census consolidated subdivision (CCS), will be available on June 12, 2002.

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

2001 2001 Census of Agriculture
 questionnaire 1996 2001 Census of Agriculture
About the Census of Agricuture All releases 2001 2001 Census of Agriculture

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