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Changes to the Census of Agriculture

Changes to the Census of Agriculture

The census is using a new definition of “farm”

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Canadian ag data enthusiasts are marking Monday, May 11, down on their calendars as Statistics Canada will release the first data from the 2021 Census of Agriculture on that day.

The survey, conducted every five years, “provides a comprehensive and integrated profile of the physical, economic, social end environmental aspects of Canada’s agriculture industry,” Stats Canada’s website says.

Some key changes to the Census of Agriculture this year could affect the figures in the report.

In 2016 for the previous census, a “farm” was any operation that intended to sell an agricultural product in that year.

What constitutes a farm is different in 2021, said Erin Kumar, unit head, analyst, with Stats Canada.

“This time around, a farm is any operation that will be reporting revenues of expenses to the Canada Revenue Agency,” she told “People should be aware of this when they’re comparing data.”

The change reflects Stats Canada’s move towards modernization and “is the best way to align our data in a more business centric way for the estimates,” Kumar added.

Another change Stats Canada has made with regards to the ag census has to do with data suppression.

The agency usually suppresses data either because of confidentiality or data quality.

This year, for the first time, Stats Canada will be publishing data quality indicators.

“This is something new,” Kumar said. “When you look at our estimates, you’ll see a little character that gives a range for our quality. What this does for our users is give everyone a really good sense about the strength of our data.”

Stats Canada will also be using Random Tabular Adjustments (RTA) in the ag census.

RTAs are “a statistical technique used to protect confidential information in published data by applying random adjustments to sensitive estimates,” the agency’s website says.

Stats Canada developed the method and used it for the first time with the release of the Survey of Innovation and Business Strategy in 2017.

“In previous years we would have suppressed (data) if we felt releasing it would have given information on specific businesses or individuals,” Kumar said. “This system adds a little bit of noise to get us as close to an estimate as possible without identifying anyone specially.”

One item users can look out for on May 11 is a new data interaction tool.

Visitors can interact with maps and look at data from their province or a geographic region, Kumar said.

Also new for 2021 is special information related to cannabis production in Canada.

This information will not be included in May, Kumar said.

“We didn’t feel the data would be at the quality we need for publishing,” she said. “That data will likely be available in the fall.”

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