Farmland Ownership and Consolidation

Farmers who work the land should have control over the management of their food production unit. The NFU views with alarm the encroachment of industrial corporations into the business of primary food production through direct ownership, vertical integration, and contract farming. When investment of capital—whether foreign or Canadian—excludes local farmers from the land, rural disintegration occurs, and food sovereignty is impossible.

Farms across Canada are bigger than ever before. The average size of a farm in Canada has nearly tripled over past 70 years.

Average area of a Canadian farm, 1951-2021
Source: Statistics Canada Table 32-10-0153-01

These trends are even more pronounced in some provinces. For example, the average size of a farm in Saskatchewan has more than tripled over the same time period, reaching almost 1,800 acres.

The increase in average farm size is not evenly distributed across farm types. In most provinces, the number of medium-sized farms have decreased more drastically than small farms, while the largest farms continue to increase in both size and number.

Number of farms in Saskatchewan by size, 1981-2021
Source: Statistics Canada Table 32-10-0156-01

In Saskatchewan for example, the most common farm size in 1981 was around 1,000 acres or 6 quarter sections, with more than 13,500 farms in that category. Forty years later, there were less than 3,500 farms of that size. By contrast, the number of farms in Saskatchewan larger than 3,500 acres or 22 quarter sections increased from roughly 1,200 in 1981 to 4,600 in 2021, becoming the new most common farm size.

Even as farms get larger, the cost to buy or rent an acre of land continues to climb across Canada These trends are driven in part by the influx of money into farmland from the financial sector.

Farmland should not be abandoned to market forces. The NFU supports political efforts to curb the trend of consolidation and rein in corporate power. Many valuable policies have already been enacted at the provincial level, such as limits to the size of individual and corporate land holdings in PEI and a ban on pension funds owning farmland in Saskatchewan.