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Farms will keep getting bigger

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Thirteen per cent of Canadian farmers produce 64 per cent of all agricultural production in Canada, says Lyndon Carlson, Farm Credit Canada’s vice-president of marketing.

It’s another indication of the trend, which will continue, to bigger farms, he told the CropLife Canada meeting here Dec. 2.

“There are pros and cons, big farms (versus) small farms, but one thing I say we’ve noticed is as farm size has grown larger they are able to manage their balance sheet in years where their income statement looks really bad and that wasn’t always the case,” Carlson said.

Farmers 55 years old or older hold half the $86 billion worth of farm assets in Canada. That’s seen by some as a problem, Carlson said, but it also means the remaining assets are owned by farmers 55 and younger.

Carlson said he rejects the notion that most 55-year-old farmers want to retire. His brothers, aged 54 and 59, are still expanding, he said. It takes many years of farming to get established.

“So my brothers are having more fun farming today that were 20 years ago and they sure as heck don’t want to stop now,” Carlson said.

Most owners of independent businesses retire later in life and that was the case for Carlson’s father, who farmed into his 80s. By then his sons had taken over the unpleasant jobs.

“He got to get up in the morning and see his sons,” Carlson said. “What would he rather been doing?

“Those were the greatest years of his life.”

While farms are getting bigger they are still family or multi-family operations.

“There are virtually no publicly traded agricultural operations in the nation,” Carlson said. “Most of the large ones are incorporated certainly but the CEO and the vice-president and the secretary – it’s all family members. I would say it’s still the heart of agriculture.”

Farmers are adding paid advisors to their team.

“Farmers know that agriculture… has never been more complex and they need to have a team in order to run their operation. I think that bodes well for the future.”

The new farmers are “engaged” and “educated.” They can do other things but have chosen to farm.

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