Numbers released by Statistics Canada show 2018 was a very bad year for Nova Scotia farmers. Unfortunately it was even worse than the already rough year of 2017. The latest numbers show the total net income for Nova Scotia farmers went from a loss of $16.5 million in 2017 to a loss of almost $40 million in 2018.
Last year got off to a terrible start for many fruit growers in Nova Scotia, when budding fruit trees were hit hard by a late frost in June. Many crops never recovered.
"It nailed a lot of fruit and blueberries and Christmas trees," said Victor Oulton, the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, who operates a livestock operation in Martock, Hants County.
But the Nova Scotia farmers were not the only ones having a hard time. The total net income of Canadian farmers from 2017 to 2018 declined 56 per cent to $3.6 billion. The back breaker was a big increase in operational costs that were tempered by a slight increase in receipts.
While farm receipts in Nova Scotia increased $6 million to $573 million in 2018, expenses were the big killer. They went up by a whopping $28 million, from $517 million to $545 million.
"Fuel and labour are the big ones," said Oulton. "I've talked to a lot of guys who said their labour numbers were actually about the same, but it was their crop numbers that were way down because of the poor growing conditions."
Oulton, whose family has operated their farm near Windsor for over a century, said he expects the bad numbers could continue. He said the 2019 numbers will likely show another decline in the bottom line for farmers because of another weather-fuelled poor growing season. A cold and wet spring left some farmers unable to get some of their crops in the ground.