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Canadian farms becoming larger

August 7, 2012  By The George Morris Centre

Aug. 7, 2012 – The recent Canadian Census of Agriculture revealed the continued trend toward fewer farms operated by older farmers. In a paper released by the George Morris Centre, authors Larry Martin and Al Mussell combine the census data with data on total and net operating returns to show the significance of the trend toward larger farms.

“Farms with annual sales over a half million dollars now make up a little less than 15% of the farms, but almost 70% of the total sales in agriculture” says Martin. “On average, these farms have over $5 million in assets and about $1.3 million in debt.  Much of this change is due to changes in machinery and other technology that allow people to do more. Part is a natural result of successful entrepreneurs who want to grow. The financial risk borne by the owners is huge, especially with ever greater market volatility.  As they evolve toward these new structures, operators need continuously improving management skills to deal with the inherent complexity and risk.”

Mussell adds, “Most government programs are designed as “one size fits all” and that size is the middle, which is disappearing. The strategies, risks and issues facing the various segments of primary agriculture are very different.  It seems appropriate to focus on designing policies and programs that are consistent with the evolving structure.”


The paper, “Canadian Farms Becoming Larger with Greater Capital Investment,” is available on the George Morris Centre’s website (

About the George Morris Centre

The George Morris Centre is a national, independent, economic research institute that focusses on the agriculture and food industry. Areas of research include:  trade, regulation, cost of production, food safety, market analysis, agricultural research, environment, competitiveness and corporate strategy. For more information, please visit

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