A look at income numbers by sector tells tale

There are huge differences in how agriculture is performing financially between sectors and from one province to another. 

Agriculture Canada has released its 2016 Canadian Agricultural Outlook, and overall it puts a positive spin on farm income levels. The macro numbers will be widely reported, and there aren’t many surprises. 

However, delving into the numbers at a more detailed level provides interesting insights. 

The average grain and oilseed farm in Canada had receipts of $358,000 in 2015, while program payments such as crop insurance, AgriStability and AgriInvest were nearly $20,000 per farm. After expenses, net operating income was nearly $99,000 for the average grain farm.

For perhaps the first time ever, the average cattle operation had farm receipts exceeding those of grain operations: $370,000. 

However, program payments were much lower at just $5,000, and net operating income less than $36,000.

This year’s net operating income for an average grain farm is expected to remain steady at $96,000, while the average cattle farm is expected to drop to $18,000 because of a reduction in receipts.

The average hog farm has much higher market receipts, in the $2 million range, but net operating income is in a nosedive. 


Hog farms had a great year in 2014 with an average net operating income of $284,000 but declined to $65,000 in 2015. 

The projection for this year is a dismal $15,000, despite average program payments, mainly AgriStability, increasing to nearly $90,000 per farm. 

While hog farms show the largest average market receipts of any sector, average potato, greenhouse and poultry farms are consistently higher than $1 million in annual farm receipts. 

However, these enterprises have relatively steady net operating incomes. 

The average dairy farm has market receipts of $650,000 with net operating income consistently in the $150,000 range.

Breaking the numbers down by province, about two-thirds of the $7.8 billion in Quebec farm receipts come from livestock with one-third coming from crops. Total net income for 2015 is projected at $832 million.

In Ontario, the more than $12 billion in farm receipts is split almost equally between crops and livestock. Total farm income of $1.2 billion in 2015 is expected to decline to $518 million in 2016.


Manitoba had nearly $5.9 billion in market receipts in 2015 with more than half coming from crops. Total net income is expected to decline from $901 million in 2015 to $473 million this year.

Seventy-seven percent of Sask-atchewan’s market receipts of $13.3 billion came from crops in 2015. Total net income is expected to rise from $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion in 2016.

In Alberta, total market receipts were $12.6 billion with a little more than half coming from livestock. Total net income was slightly less than $1 billion in 2015, and it’s expected to slip slightly to $900 million in 2016.

British Columbia’s market receipts of slightly more than $3 billion are split almost equally between crops and livestock. Total net income has often been a negative number, and for 2015 it’s minus $13 million. For 2016, it’s projected to be minus $71 million.

Of all the provinces, Saskatchewan generated the highest net operating income per family in 2015 at $48,000. 

However, Alberta had the highest total family income at $175,000 on the strength of other family income, which averaged $139,000.


Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at kevin@hursh.ca.