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Farm Management Survey, 2017

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Released: 2019-04-26

According to the 2016 Census of Agriculture, there were 193,492 farms in Canada. These farms are complex businesses that require a high level of management and organization. Due to changing technologies, new and unforeseen issues and the implementation of new laws and regulations, farm operators need to constantly adapt.

Staff management practices, crop input management, managing agricultural operations' environmental impacts and integrating new technologies are some examples of how farms are evolving to adapt to a changing work environment.

Farms using overtime and new technologies to address staffing issues

In 2017, 20% of Canadian farms asked their employees to work overtime to compensate for a lack of workers, while 14% adopted improved technologies to reduce staffing needs. Another 8% of farms restructured their operations to reduce or eliminate certain farm functions.

Overall, 65% of farms reported not being concerned by a lack of staff or not engaging in activities to address staffing issues.

In 2017, 54% of farms in Nova Scotia, 44% in New Brunswick and 29% in Prince Edward Island reported that they were not concerned with staffing requirements. In these three provinces, farms most commonly adopted improved technologies, used overtime, or used employee training and certification programs to manage staffing needs.

Farmers can also use the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program to manage staffing requirements. Nationally, 4% of all farms used this program in 2017, with farmers in British Columbia (12%) and Nova Scotia (11%) most likely to do so.

By type of farm, fruit, vegetable, berry and nut farms (33%)—which are very labour-intensive operations—were the most likely to use the TFW program. They also used improved technologies (33%), overtime (27%) and employee training (25%) more often than other types of farms to manage staffing needs.

Dairy producers more likely to use custom operators

Custom operators use their own equipment to work on a farm manager's land for a set fee or rate. In 2017, 43% of Canadian farms used custom operators.

By type of farm, dairy producers (69%) and field crop producers (55%) were more likely to use this type of worker. Geographically, the use of custom operators was more prevalent on farms in Ontario (58%) and Quebec (51%).

Quebec and New Brunswick report the highest shares of farms with an environmental farm plan

An environmental farm plan (EFP) is a formal, written overall assessment of environmental issues or concerns related to an operation. In 2017, 40% of farms in Canada had an EFP, while 7% were developing one and 53% did not have one.

Nationally, farms in Quebec (81%) and New Brunswick (74%) were the most likely to have an EFP in 2017. In Quebec, the only province obligating EFPs for most farm types, 82% of farms with an EFP had created it less than two years before. In contrast, farms in the Western provinces (from 25% to 28%) were less likely to report having an EFP.

By farm type, 81% of dairy producers, 80% of pig producers and 71% of poultry producers had an EFP—the highest shares—while beef producers (30%) were less likely to have one than other types of farms.

Many Canadian farms use Global Positioning System technology to manage their farm operations

In 2017, 84% of all field crop producers used Global Positioning System (GPS) tools. Among field crop producers who reported using the technology, most used it as tracking or guidance systems (90%), to generate yield maps (32%) and to target or vary fertilizer application rates (28%).

Most field crop producers in Manitoba (95%), Saskatchewan (95%) and Alberta (90%) used GPS equipment in their operations, mainly as tracking or guidance systems.

Forage crop operations in Manitoba (42%) and Saskatchewan (40%) were the most likely to use GPS tools, mostly as guidance systems. They also used them to apply fertilizer and to help design improved land drainage.

Most field crop producers apply herbicides to their fields

Pest management is another important aspect of farm management. In Canada, 93% of field crop producers used herbicides, 38% used fungicides, 26% used insecticides and 1% used bio-pesticides to manage pests on their operations.

Among fruit, vegetable, berry and nut producers, 76% used herbicides, 70% used fungicides, 68% used insecticides and 9% used bio-pesticides.

In 2017, the use of herbicides in field crop production was very common in every sampled province (between 90% and 98%). Insecticide use was reported more often in Ontario than in any other province (35% of field crop producers). In Manitoba, 61% of field crop producers used fungicides, more than in other provinces.

Among fruit, vegetable, berry and nut producers, herbicides were most often applied on farms in Manitoba (93%) and Alberta (98%), while insecticides were most commonly used on farms in Prince Edward Island (97%) and Manitoba (87%). Farms in Manitoba (96%) used fungicides more often than farms in other provinces.

  Note to readers

The Farm Management Survey

The Farm Management Survey (FMS) is a collaborative project between Statistics Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The FMS contributes to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's work on measuring selected management practices in the agricultural sector. The information generated from this survey informs federal and provincial policy decisions in the sector.

Methodological information

Information on the Farm Management Survey is available.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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