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Unsettling stats from RBC show more action on ag is needed

Posted on 21 April 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

By Ryan Dahlman

Sometimes we don’t appreciate those who really do make a difference in our lives.    You know we take them for granted: family members, the fact that we have water, (hopefully) shelter and food. When one of those is taken away or unavailable, it is a not a matter of inconvenience or want, it is a matter of life sustainability.

   Agriculture provides food for the world. We may not absolutely not need the inevitable iPhone49 or the last video game system or trendy vehicle, food is on of our largest life necessities. 

   There are a lot of challenges in agriculture right now. Before all non-farmers start the “but farmers must be rich with the price of food these days” rallying cry, think again. 

   While some are doing okay, the young farmer who hasn’t inherited land is very rare. The number of younger people in agriculture is a fewer and farther between in recent years — that is according to an RBC report, “Farmers Wanted: The labour renewal Canada needs to build the Next Green Revolution.”

    Now while cynics may say that point to the fact a big bank would care about hard working folks: RBC’s revenue was $3.2 billion for the quarter ended January 31, 2023, CIBC’s overall revenue rose 8% to C$5.93 billion… you get the idea… consider the amount of money tied into agriculture. 

   According to Agriculture Canada, the Net Cash Income the difference between cash receipts and operating expenses, is the main metric that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada uses to measure farm income, grew from $22.9 billion in 2021 to a new record of $23.2 billion in 2022. 

Big business. 

   However, agriculture is going through a transition as there is a shortage of farmers, livestock producers etc.  

   According to the RBC report, it stated: 

“• By 2033, 40% of Canadian farm operators will retire, placing agriculture on the cusp of one of the biggest labour and leadership transitions in the country’s history.

• Over the same period, a shortfall of 24,000 general farm, nursery and greenhouse workers is expected to emerge.i

• 66% of producers do not have a succession plan in place, leaving the future of farmland in doubt.ii

• These gaps loom at a time when Canada’s agricultural workforce needs to evolve to include skills like data analytics and climate-smart practices that enable us to grow more food with fewer emissions.

• Through short-, medium-, and long-term policies, Canada can establish the digitally-savvy agricultural workforce needed to make our country a global leader in low carbon, sustainable food production.

• To offset a short-term skills crisis, we’ll need to accept 30,000 permanent immigrants over the next decade to establish their own farms and greenhouses or take over existing ones.

• To meet our medium and long-term goals, we’ll need to build a new pipeline of domestic operators and workers by bolstering education and increasing the R&D spending behind productivity-enhancing automation.

• Other nations, like Japan and New Zealand are rapidly deploying national strategies to tackle similar challenges. They are offering incentives to farm operators who become more autonomous or unlocking pathways for foreign skilled workers and new farmers to enter their industries. Canada needs to act fast.”

   It is positive that there seems to be more of a push on agriculture when it comes to schools and financial institutions and very targetted agriculture-specific programs. However, one would argue this is market (an undeveloped one) pushed. Theogvernment needs to ensure that the future is sustainable. Land prices, energy sources (electric combines?!-C’mon); ensuring there are good markets and that agriculture rpoducers get fair prices for their commodities. 

   Anecdotally, many of us know farmers and many of those farms have patriarchs/matriarchs who are past acknowledged retirement age still operating and working their farms with not a lot of back up. Foreign ownership of land is a real thing. What does that do to the local economy? 

A lot of questions about an under appreciated industry. Let’s hope the answers are there.

Ryan Dahlman is General Manager, Editorial Director of Saskatchewan Newspapers, ANG, Managing Editor, Prairie Post

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