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Census of Agriculture counts 49,431 farms in Alberta

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On May 16, 2006, the Census of Agriculture counted 49,431 farms in Alberta, a 7.9% decrease during the past five years. This is slightly higher than the 7.1% decrease at the national level. On Census Day, there were 9,576 fewer farms in Alberta compared to 1996. A census farm is an agricultural operation that produces an agricultural product intended for sale.

Alberta accounted for 21.6% of Canada's 229,373 farms in 2006, comparable to the share in 2001. Alberta's total ranked second in Canada, after Ontario.

At the same time, Alberta reported 71,660 farm operators, a 6.0% decline from 2001.

Farm area

Farms in Alberta averaged 1,055 acres of land in 2006, up from 970 acres five years earlier.

The total area of land on farms in Alberta increased less than 1% between 2001 and 2006 to 52.1 million acres in 2006. It has 31.2% of the total farm area in Canada.

Farmers reported 23.8 million acres of cropland in Alberta in 2006, down from 2001. The province accounts for 26.8% of all cropland area in the nation. Cropland is the total area in field crops, fruits, vegetables, sod and nursery.

Farm finance

Alberta's total gross farm receipts were $9.9 billion in 2005, while operating expenses reached $8.8 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 Alberta, 6.7% of receipts were from program payments; by 2005 the proportion had grown to 11.0%. The actual value of these payments increased from $662.6 million to $1.1 billion (in current dollars) during this period.

According to the farm input price index (FIPI) and the farm product price index (FPPI), the prices farmers had to pay for the inputs they purchased rose 9.6% while the prices they received for the products they sold dropped 2.6%. 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. Alberta operators were spending an average of 89 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 10.7% between censuses and those with $250,000 or more (at 2005 constant prices) increased by 12.2%.There were 7,497 of these larger farms in Alberta in 2006, and while they only represented 15.2% of farms in the province, they accounted for 76.1% of total provincial gross farm receipts reported for the year 2005.

Organic farms

According to the census there were 2,629 farms with organic production in Alberta on census day, 5.3% 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 2,629 farms reporting organic products in Alberta, 8.7% produced certified organic products, 1.0% were in transition to becoming certified and 91.5% 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 Alberta was hay or field crops. They were reported on 60.5% of the province's organic farms.

Farm operators

Of Alberta's 71,660 operators in 2006, 30.0% were women, up from 28.4% five years earlier. Nationally, 27.8% of farm operators in 2006 were women.

In 2005, about 43.6% of farmers worked more than 40 hours a week on their farm operations, down from 46.3% five years earlier. Nationwide, 46.7% of farmers worked more than 40 hours per week on their farms.

About 54.6% of all farm operators had an off-farm job or business in 2005, compared to 49.2% 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 Alberta agriculture

  • Alberta remains the top province for barley in the country. However, the province experienced a 16.5% drop in barley acreage to just under 4.1 million acres. The decrease was commonly seen throughout Canada as barley area declined 21.4%.
  • Corn for silage has seen a 91.3% increase in area in the province. Total acreage increased from 36,814 acres to 70,411 acres.
  • Canola has been of growing interest to producers in Alberta. The crop has increased 52.9%, with total acreage rising from 2.7 million acres in 2001 to 4.1 million acres in 2006.
  • Soybeans are another crop on the rise. Alberta experienced a significant increase in soybean acreage, up from 88 acres in 2001 to 2,677 acres in 2006.
  • Flaxseed in Alberta went up 50.1% since 2001 to 60,372 acres in 2006.
  • Alberta remains the top province for alfalfa with 31.4% of the national area. With a minimal increase of 0.5% since 2001, the 2006 Census counted just over 3.9 million acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures in Alberta.
  • Sugar beets in Alberta experienced a 30.5% increase since 2001, for a total area of 38,803 acres in 2006 80.6% of the Canada total.
  • In the past, Alberta has been known as the largest cattle-producing province in the country and in 2006 this remained the case. However, despite its top rank, the province experienced a 3.7% decrease in total cattle inventories, down to 6.4 million. Cattle inventories experienced fluctuations throughout all provinces and nationally there was slight increase of 1.4%.
  • The Canadian bison herd has increased 34.9% since 2001. Alberta had a 22.1% increase in bison inventories, to 97,366 head. With 49.7% of the Canadian herd, Alberta is the top bison province in the country.
  • In Alberta, no-till methods were used on 47.8% of the land prepared for seeding in 2006, up from 27.4% in 2001. Conventional tillage fell to 24.5% of land prepared for seeding, from 37.1% five years earlier. Conservation tillage was used on 27.7% of the land prepared for seeding, compared to 35.5% of land in 2001.
  • In 2006, 3,170 farms in Alberta reported farm-related injuries that required medical attention in the previous 12 months. Injuries were reported on 6.4% of Alberta farms, compared to 6.0% of all farms in Canada.
  • In 2006, 47.4% of operations in Alberta reported using a computer for farm business, compared to 40.7% of operations in 2001.

Statistics Canada would like to thank the farming community of Alberta 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).


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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