BY KIRK STARRATT
Kings County Advertiser/Register
Better information about the local agricultural industry could be its best friend as Kings County considers land use policies.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada initiated a project to profile the agricultural industry in Kings County in May 2009, based on the 2006 census.
The first phase involves a review of farming types in Kings. The second phase will produce an agri-value profile that would represent the value-added component of the agricultural industry here. The results from phase two of the project will be provided to the municipality at a later date.
Patsy Michiels, a land resource specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, presented the first phase information to council at the June committee of the whole. She said the results could assist in the land use planning process. It can illustrate the challenges faced by farmers, and the environmental, social and economic contributions made to the community.
“The agricultural profile is a description of the major characteristics of agricultural production in an area,” she said. “We were looking for an opportunity to try our agricultural profiling tool in the Maritimes. The county approached us about partnering.”
Michiels hopes to build on existing documents, such as a statistical profile of the county using 2001 census data published by the Federation of Agriculture.
Going beyond examining types of farms, the current profile involved developing a list of farm systems in Kings County. Each of 604 farms in the 2006 Census of Agriculture - an increase over 2001 - was assigned to one of 12 farm systems based on the source of the majority of the farm’s income.
The profile also helps increase agricultural education and awareness and provides information to help plan for a sustainable agricultural industry.
“How does this help with land use decision making?” Michiels said. “It documents the economic contribution to the county and supplements existing knowledge.”
Farming systems with the most financial activity might not be those with the most land usage. For example, the broiler system represents one of the smallest land bases but was among the biggest economic contributors.
“Different farms have different sustainability issues,” she said.
In 2005, the average age of a farm operator was 52. Some systems tend to have younger farmers; others tend to feature older farmers. There were four systems with few or no farm operators under age 55. Michiels said there has to be more discussion and research looking into age classes.
“The age of farm operators is an issue here.”
Michiels pointed out the profile represents a snapshot in time. When the profile is updated in 2011, it will be able to start monitoring changes.
Councillor Chris Parker asked how much land is actively being farmed in the county. Michiels said about 22 per cent, more than 120,000 acres, was under the management of farmers in 2005. Parker said there are roughly 95,000 acres zoned Agricultural in Kings.
Councillor Jim Taylor said we would see a dramatic change in the hog industry specifically when 2011 data is compared to the older data. Fairly rapid change has taken place over a short period of time.
Councillor Wayne Atwater would like to see the federal minister of agriculture briefed on this profiling tool so, perhaps, the importance of agriculture to the entire nation - not just Kings County - can be illustrated.
Partners include the provincial Department of Agriculture, the Kings County Federation of Agriculture and the Kings Regional Development Agency.
According to the ag data...
• Total farm receipts in Kings County in 2005 were $170.6 million.
• Total farm expenses in Kings County in 2005 were $151 million.
• The top four farming systems, based on the 2006 census data: the hog sector, poultry and egg sector, broiler sector and vegetable sector. These represented 57 per cent of the total receipts and expenses across the agricultural industry.
• For the Vegetable Farming System, there were 48 farms with 51 per cent or more of their income generated from vegetable production.
• In 2005, $27.7 million in salaries and wages was paid, 54 per cent of which was paid within the top four farming systems.