This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Beef in BC magazine and is reprinted with permission.
Telling the future by looking at the past… is like driving a car by looking in the rear-view mirror – Herb Brody… but history helps illuminate the present. Shortly after Confederation, agriculture became a nation-building tool to settle the west and prevent US expansion.
Agriculture provided freight for Canada’s railroads, fed the urban population, and supplied millers, processors and exporters. Canada’s Experimental Farms Stations Act of 1886 supported productivity-boosting research. This provided even more freight, food, and economic spin-offs. Canada’s farm population declined as technology and mechanization reduced the need for labor, and an expanding economy produced new jobs in other industries. When Canada’s first agricultural census was completed in in 1931, 31.7% of Canada’s population lived on farms. By 2006, 2.2% of Canada’s population lived on farms. Agricultural productivity continues to increase, but other economic sectors have grown even faster. Last year, Canada’s beef industry and economic spin-offs contributed $32 billion to Canada’s economy, about 1.7% of Canada’s $1.8 trillion gross domestic product.