Census of Agriculture

Detailed information for 2006




Every 5 years

Record number:


The Census of Agriculture is conducted to develop a statistical portrait of Canada's farms and its agricultural operators.

Data release - May 16, 2007 (first in a series of releases. Please refer to left sidebar under the heading "The Daily")


Statistics Canada conducts the Census of Agriculture to develop a statistical portrait of Canada's farms and its agricultural operators. The data provide users with a comprehensive picture of the major commodities of the agriculture industry while also supplying information on new or less common crops, livestock, finances and use of technology.

The data collected by the Census of Agriculture are used to calculate estimates and determine the sample frame for the agricultural surveys. The information is also used by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and provincial governments to develop, administer and evaluate agricultural policies, and by universities and agri-businesses for research and planning.

The census takes place every five years as decreed by The Statistics Act. It provides a historical perspective on Canadian agriculture and on trends in the industry over the years.

Clients: Federal government, provincial and territorial governments, municipal governments; libraries; educational institutions; researchers and academics; private industry; business associations and labour organizations; private citizens; public interest groups.

Reference period: The reference period for the Census of Agriculture data varies with the variable under consideration. The most common reference periods include the previous calendar year and census day (second Tuesday of May).


  • Agriculture and food (formerly Agriculture)

Data sources and methodology

Target population

All agriculture operations in Canada.

Instrument design

Although the questionnaire is updated every census to reflect data users' changing requirements as identified through the Canada-wide workshops, certain basic or core questions appear on every census. These questions - such as those on farm operator name, land area, livestock numbers and crop areas - are considered essential by Statistics Canada and other major users of Census of Agriculture data. Repeating basic questions allows the census to measure change over time, while adding new questions and dropping others allows data to be collected that reflect new technologies and structural changes in the agriculture industry. For example the questions about organic products are more detailed, encouraging operators to report those products which are certified organic, in transition or non-certified organic. Fewer details are requested in the section about the total land area of the operation so operators may report the workable, non-workable, and rented land more clearly and easily. To better reflect the methods used on operations today more detail have been added to the section on manure use and application.

New or changed questions were developed in head office and tested a number of times with farm operators across Canada through one-on-one interviews on their farms and in focus groups. Farm operators selected for testing reflected regional diversity - in types of agriculture, production techniques, languages and terminology, and in policies or issues that could affect the sensitivity of questions. This testing proved that some questions would not perform well on the census, and that the wording of other questions would require fine-tuning. Respondent burden, content testing results, user priorities and budgets were all taken into consideration in determining the final content of the 2006 Census of Agriculture questionnaire. It was approved by Cabinet in the spring of 2005.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

The Census of Agriculture is designed to obtain complete and accurate data from all farms in Canada. Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore no sampling is done.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The Census of Agriculture is collected with the Census of Population (record number 3901). Questionnaires are mailed by Canada Post if in an urban area, and by enumerators in rural areas. Enumerators are asked to enquire at each household where they make contact, if anyone in the household is a farm operator. Enumerators are also asked to identify all agricultural operations in their enumeration area. In previous censuses the completed questionnaires were checked by the enumerator and forwarded to Statistics Canada Head Office in Ottawa but in 2006 all completed questionnaires will be mailed back to the Data Processing Centre by the respondent thus ensuring a greater degree of privacy. The information on the questionnaires is converted to machine-readable form and checked for consistency. The final data are analysed for accuracy and summarized for public release. The reference period for the Census of Agriculture data varies with the variable under consideration. The most common reference periods include the previous calendar year (e.g. value of agricultural products sold) and census day (e.g. number of livestock on the operation).

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Error detection

Since there will be no follow-up contact with operators by enumerators this census, a new process has been developed to detect errors to ensure the greatest possible accuracy of the data. Questionnaires with missing or inconsistent data may be followed up with a telephone call from a census employee from Statistics Canada's head office asking a short series of questions to clear up any missing or incomplete answers.


Some records in a Census will be incomplete or inconsistent and will require imputation. Where a follow-up phone call with respondents is unsuccessful in obtaining missing information or resolving data inconsistencies, an automated imputation procedure is used. Where possible, incomplete or inconsistent records receive substitute values derived from other information on the record. In cases of total non-response and for data that cannot be derived from the incomplete record, a process of selecting suitable data from "nearest neighbour" records is used. The system searches for another operation with similar characteristics and within the same geographic area as the questionnaire with the problem. Once a suitable match is made the system duplicates the donor's responses in the recipient questionnaire.

Quality evaluation

The Census of Agriculture is designed to obtain complete and accurate data from all farms in Canada. It is inevitable, however, in a statistical undertaking of the size and complexity of the Census that errors will occur. Because of the many potential sources of error, an important part of the Census planning is to identify the potential sources so that the appropriate quality controls can be built into the Census operations. Each returned questionnaire is checked for completeness and wherever expected information is missing or inconsistent, follow-up contacts are made to obtain correct data. Where missing values can not be obtained or discrepancies reconciled, values are imputed.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

An integral part of each Census of Agriculture is the implementation of new or enhanced methods, procedures and technologies that improve not only the collection, but also the processing, validation and dissemination of the data.


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