ONTARIO — A steep decline in the number of mid-size farms in Canada since 2011 poses a threat to the “accepted norms in the agricultural community,” according to the researcher behind a new paper released Nov. 2 by thinktank Agri-Food Economic Systems.
“The collapsing middle of the farm size distribution threatens the community constituted by agriculture, with its commonality of interests and views, and institutions developed to support them,” Al Mussell writes in a summary of Stratification in Canadian Agriculture: Surveying the Implications.
The implications range from waning membership in traditional agricultural organizations to dwindling farmer clout over municipal matters like property taxes and infrastructure.
“We have a declining number of small farms, for whom agriculture is not the primary source of household income; a much smaller number of large and very large farms that are growing in number, for whom farming is the overwhelming source of household income; and a steep decline in the number of middle-sized farms — where previously, farming was the dominant source of household income,” says Mussell.
The paper concludes the answer is not to reign in large farms that anchor the efficiency and competitiveness of our agri-food supply chains. Rather, it recommends a dialogue be built around renewed collaboration and institutions to facilitate a renewal of diversity in our farms and support the viability of small and mid-sized farms. See the paper at www.agrifoodecon.ca