Producers can adapt to the new economic reality in Canadian agriculture

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Canada’s agriculture industry is in a good position to weather inflationary pressures and higher interest rates, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) chief economist.

“We are in a unique position where record farm revenues are helping to offset the impact of a sharp increase in input costs and rising interest rates,” J.P. Gervais said. “The key for producers is to pay close attention to projected income and expenses to avoid any cash flow challenges that could put pressure on operations.”

“The ability to service debt is arguably the most critical financial risk indicator for a farm operation,” he added.

FCC’s most recent projections suggest farm cash receipts could climb 15.9 per cent to $96 billion in 2022, driven by robust commodity prices and prospects of much stronger crop yields than last year. This would surpass the 2021 record high, which was itself an increase of 14.9 per cent over 2020.

“Even if our projections were more modest, the Canadian agriculture industry certainly seems financially healthy and in a good position to weather inflationary pressure and higher interest rates,” Gervais said.

Yet, operations will need to adjust to farming under higher interest rates – a situation unlike the one experienced for the last 15 years. The Bank of Canada increased its overnight rate by 2.25 per cent in the span of five months and further incremental increases are expected within the year.

Inflationary pressures on farm inputs are widespread. Fertilizer prices saw a year-over-year increase of at least 50 per cent, and even more than doubled in some cases. Feed prices climbed more than 40 per cent year-over-year and farm fuel has increased by more than 35 per cent. Inflationary pressures on farm inputs have dampened the outlook and contributed to an overall increase in farm debt, which rose by 7.1 per cent to $129 billion at the end of 2021.
Gervais recommends producers test various scenarios regarding commodity and farm input prices, yields and interest rates to better understand their financial risk exposure. They can then identify different strategies to mitigate those risks if they find themselves in situations that exceed their risk tolerance.

“If a producer is already carrying significant financial risk, then reducing the risk of rising interest rates may be a prudent strategy,” Gervais said. “I’m not saying that everyone should lock in, but every producer needs to understand how different scenarios could play out and to do what’s right for their business.”

By sharing economic knowledge and forecasts, FCC provides solid insights and expertise to help those in the business of agriculture and food achieve their goals. For the most recent economic insights and analysis on farm cash receipts, interest rates and inflation, visit FCC Economics at fcc.ca/Economics.