KINGSTON — While overall farm profits spiked during the pandemic, farmers will tell you that the raw numbers don’t tell the full story.
Net farm income, gross revenue minus operating costs, topped $18.1 billion nationally for 2020, which is more than a 30 per cent boost from the previous year. The biggest gains came in the grain and oilseed sectors driven by higher export demands. At the same time there was a drop in red meat and the horticulture industries. Ontario led the way with a year over year profit increase of $887 million followed by Saskatchewan with an increase of $700 million. Net farm income in Manitoba rose by $435 million, while Quebec and Alberta saw increases of more than $330 million respectively.
Those are heady numbers only tell half the story as farmers will tell that one good year can pay huge dividends but is necessary to cover huge-loss years in which you would otherwise lose the farm. That’s also a lot of stress.
According to Quinte West grain farmer Jeff Harrison, “It’s so easy to say crop prices are higher but at the same time there’s still a line up to take it out of your pocket.”
Harrison points to the cost of fertilizer rising by 70 %, liquid propane for drying grain is up 50%. “The price of Roundup has tripled in three months.”
Scott Persall farms grains south of Brantford in Norfolk County. He is seeing the same jump in costs despite the rosy farm income gures. “Big increases in costs we had to absorb” citing the 30% increase in natural gas prices used for drying crops. “The whole chip shortage we hear about a ecting vehicle and mobile phone indus- tries hits us too. Our equipment all need those chips.”
One good year does not mean farmers are “rolling in dough,” Harrison said. He has farmed for more than 20 years and has seen the rollercoaster ride, “ If we do make a profit this year, you can expect it will evaporate with rising costs next year.”