3. Census of Agriculture Mandates and Objectives

Statistics Canada is responsible for conducting a Census of Agriculture under Section 20 of the Statistics Act.Note 1  The Act gives the Chief Statistician the authority to conduct a census of agriculture every ten years in years ending in “1”; and in every tenth year in years ending in “6” by Order in Council.  The Governor in Council also has the power to prescribe the questions to be asked in any census taken by Statistics Canada (Section 21).

The 2016 CEAG will be the 22nd national census since 1871. The decennial CEAG from 1871 to 2011 was conducted in all provinces and territories. Early censuses of agriculture in years ending in “6” were conducted only in the Prairies provinces from 1896 to 1946.Note 2 Starting in 1956, the coverage was expanded to a national level. Table 1 shows the changes made to the CEAG frequency over time.

The objectives of the Census of Agriculture are to:

  1. maintain an accurate and complete list of all farms and types of farms to ensure optimal survey sampling at the lowest cost and least response burden by categorizing all farms by farm type and size, reducing the need to contact a large number of farmers for surveys, and by allowing the survey program to estimate for small farms, eliminating the need to contact these smaller farms between censuses
  2. provide comprehensive agriculture information for detailed geographic areas, such as counties, information for which there is no other source and is critical to formulate and monitor the programs and policies on environment, health and crisis management for all levels of government
  3. provide measurement of rare or emerging commodities, which is key for disease control and trade issues, and
  4. provide critical input to manage federal and provincial governments’ expenditures in support of the agriculture sector.

The CEAG collects data on the primary agriculture industry. The content includes questions about livestock and poultry, land and crop areas, farm management practices, farm revenues and expenses, capital values for land, buildings and equipment, and the main farm location. A few questions are about the farm operators,Note 3 their time spent on farm work and other work as well as their employees. The CEAG provides a comprehensive snapshot of the industry. Due to its comprehensive enumeration, it allows Statistics Canada to produce high-quality small area data (at the census consolidated subdivision level), which are instrumental not only for meeting data needs of the agriculture industry, but also for meeting governments’ data requirements to support environmental programs, health programs, trade and crisis management.


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