Almost all Canadian farmers, from wheat growers to cattle ranchers to potato producers, can look forward to good times for up to the next 10 years, according to new government projections.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says by almost any measure, average farm income set new records in 2011.
Net cash income -- money available for everything from machinery replacement to living expenses -- is expected to total nearly $12 billion. This is a 24 per cent increase over 2010 and a 47 per cent increase over the five-year average.
The results came in spite of an eight per cent increase in operating expenses.
What's more, the prediction includes almost all agricultural sectors.
Grains and oilseeds farmers are expected to reap record net operating incomes 44 per cent higher than 2010. Incomes for hog producers should reach new highs, driven by rebounding prices that have sent market receipts soaring 20 per cent.
Dairy income should be up seven per cent over 2010. Poultry and egg producers can expect an average 21 per cent increase. Potato farmers are looking at 20 per cent increases.
Only cattle producers faced a setback in 2011 over rising costs. However, AAFC experts say that comes after several years of gradually rising incomes. Cattle prices are expected to keep improving and Canadian herds are gradually rebuilding.
Farmers will face challenges in the years to come, mostly from increasing expenses.
Fertilizer costs are expected to rise "modestly," the report says. As well, livestock producers are expected to face continually rising costs for feed, as demand for grains drives up prices.
However, the report says the conditions that led to a profitable 2011 are likely to stick around for a decade.
"Many of the factors that will influence farm income in 2011 and 2012 will continue to be felt over the next 10 years," it states. "These include continued increase in world demand for feed grains, a rising price of petroleum, slow-moderate Canadian population growth and a Canadian dollar near par with the U.S. dollar."
The impact of a healthy agriculture isn't likely to have a big effect on Canada's overall economy, experts say. They point out that agriculture accounts for about three per cent of Canadian gross domestic product.