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Crisis in Canadian farming has U.S. parallels

Canadian farmers by the tens of thousands have quit the profession. The profitability crisis has hit livestock producers particularly hard, and hog farmers hardest of all.

From The Walrus:

In the history of agriculture, no one has ever paid less for their calories than contemporary North Americans do — in labour or in dollars — and a substantial portion of the techno-industrial genius and applied skill that enables us to eat so cheaply is found in places like Jaques Farm.

For all its prowess, Canada’s cheap food policy has produced an agribusiness sector that broadcasts the mixed signals of a system under severe stress. Nationwide cash receipts have climbed from $37 billion in 2006 to more than $44 billion last year, with a record take of $46 billion during a price spike in 2008. But over the same period, net farm income — the figure that matters most to the 300,000 Canadians who work the farms — has fluctuated wildly, climbing from $283.5 million in 2006 to above $6.8 billion in 2008 (a twenty-four-fold increase) before declining 62 percent, to just over $2.5 billion, in 2009 and 2010. Between these figures lies a gap pried steadily wider by the need for more land, bigger and smarter equipment, patented seed, and ever-precious supplies of fossil fuel inputs — from the gas in the combines to the petrochemical herbicides and nitrogen fertilizers that enable increasingly larger yields.

For more, see: The Farms Are Not All Right

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