For the past three years, grain farmer Nick Cornea has noticed a dip in revenue and 2018 was no exception.
According to Statistics Canada, realized net farm income fell 45.1 per cent in 2018, the largest drop since 2006. In 2017, farmers’ net income decreased by only 2.8 per cent. In Saskatchewan, farmers’ income slipped 28.6 per cent.
“It’s not an easy time. It’s not [a time] where we can just coast around and not have to worry about things,” Cornea said. “Definitely, times are tough.”
Todd Lewis, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) president, says he expected a drop in income, but these numbers are “eye-opening.”
“You hear all the problems with trade be it in canola or durum or pulse crops. This is a result of some of those trade issues,” Lewis said.
The province says there are a numbering of contributing factors when it comes to farmers’ income. The biggest factor is rising operational expenses. Fuel, seed, labour and interest costs continue to creep up, while sales stay stagnant.
“Unfortunately, costs will always continue to rise. That’s pretty standard practice for farmers and ranchers in this province,” said Paul Johnson, assistant deputy agriculture minister. “What we do hope is commodity prices rise at least as high as expenses did and that wasn’t the case in 2018.”
To offset expenses, Cornea is cutting back on fertilizer and chemicals. He’s also opting to repair his aging equipment, rather than replacing it. But Cornea is worried that money could get even tighter with this year’s drought.
“If we don’t get the moisture and the rain, I think we’re pretty much running out of our moisture content in the ground. The plant roots can’t go deep enough to get it,” Cornea said. “I’d like to hope we’ll get some strategic rain when we need it so we can get the yields that we want.”
Lewis says there are supports for farmers in times like these, including crop insurance and AgriStability.
The province says they are working with the federal government to increase market access for commodities, like canola.
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