Canada farms get bigger, but fewer: Statscan

Thu May 10, 2012 2:05pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The average Canadian farm grew to a record size in 2011, even as the number of farms shrank to a record low, helping level the field for bulked up farm operations with the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly set to end and the world's biggest diversified commodities trader, Glencore, set to enter the market.

The average Canadian farm grew about 7 percent since 2006 to 778 acres in 2011, continuing a long-term trend, Statistics Canada's Census of Agriculture showed on Thursday,

The country's agricultural sector is gearing for its biggest change in decades.

The Wheat Board will give up its 69-year-old grain marketing monopoly in Western Canada on August 1, leaving farmers to sell directly to grain handlers.

By summer, Swiss commodity trader Glencore International PLC is expected to complete its takeover of top Canadian grain handler Viterra Inc, bringing in a major new player alongside Cargill and Richardson International.

At One Earth Farms, possibly Canada's largest with 95,000 acres of cropland and 8,000 cows, going bigger means more negotiating clout, said Chief Executive Larry Ruud.

"For us, the advantage is economies of scale, the ability to get better discounts (on supplies) because of volume purchases, as well as on sales (of production), the ability to garner a better premium," Ruud said.

Canadian farms have steadily increased in size since the 1920s as improving technology made it easier to manage more land.   Continued...

A canola crop used for making cooking oil sits in full bloom on the Canadian prairies with windmills in the background near Fort Macleod, Alberta, July 11, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol