Financial Planning
April 10, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Average farmland values in Canada continued to climb in 2016, but lost steam in most provinces, including Ontario, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) latest Farmland Values Report.

Canada’s farmland values showed an average increase of 7.9 per cent in 2016, compared to a 10.1 per cent increase in 2015 and a 14.3 per cent increase in 2014. Canadian farmland values have increased at various rates for the past 25 years.

The average value of Ontario farmland increased 4.4 per cent in 2016, following gains of 6.6 per cent in 2015 and 12.4 per cent in 2014. Values in the province have continued to rise since 1988.

In six provinces, the average increase in farmland values slowed from the previous year. And despite the overall national increase, seven of the 51 regions assessed across Canada showed no increase in farmland values in 2016.

“The impact of some of the key farmland value drivers appear to be fairly consistent across Canada,” said J.P. Gervais, FCC chief agricultural economist. “Levelling out of commodity prices and some challenging weather conditions may have taken some of the steam out of farmland values and hopefully this moderating effect will turn into a trend.”

Prince Edward Island experienced the highest increase among the provinces and saw the only double-digit increase at 13.4 per cent. There were not enough publicly reported transactions in Newfoundland and Labrador to accurately assess farmland values.

“Demand for Canadian agricultural products remains strong at home and abroad,” Gervais said. “A healthy agriculture sector – supported by a low Canadian dollar and low interest rates – helped sustain increases in farmland values in 2016.”

“I would, however, caution producers not to become overly confident,” he said, noting crop receipts have increased at a slower rate than farmland values over the past few years. “Although we have just come off of several years of record farm receipts, agriculture is a cyclical business and producers should always plan for different market conditions.”

Gervais encourages producers to identify key risks and available solutions to manage these risks should changes suddenly occur in their businesses or the economic environments in which they operate.

To view the 2016 FCC Farmland Values Report, video and historical data, visit www.fcc.ca/FarmlandValues.

To learn more about the report, register for the free FCC webinar on April 18, which can be found in the Agriwebinars section at www.fcc.ca/events.
Published in Farm Business
Jan. 4, 2017 - Canadian agriculture benefited from a relatively low dollar throughout 2016 and this trend is expected to continue into 2017, according to J.P. Gervais, Farm Credit Canada’s chief agricultural economist.

Top Drivers“There are certainly other factors that could influence Canadian agriculture, such as the global economy, the investment landscape, commodity and energy prices,” says Gervais, speaking to his top five agriculture economic trends to watch in 2017. “The Canadian dollar, however, has been a major driver for profitability in the last couple of years and could have the biggest influence on the overall success of Canada’s agriculture industry in 2017.”Gervais is forecasting the dollar will hover around the 75-cent mark and will remain below its five-year average value relative to the U.S. dollar in 2017, potentially making the loonie the most significant economic driver to watch in Canadian agriculture this year.

The low dollar not only makes Canada more competitive in agricultural markets relative to some of the world’s largest exporters, but it also means higher farm cash receipts for producers whose commodities are priced in U.S. dollars.

Producers
A low Canadian dollar will keep the demand for Canadian agricultural commodities healthy, which is especially important considering the higher projected supply of livestock and crops. This means potential revenue growth, especially considering a likely rebound in livestock prices off the weakness observed in the second half of 2016.

“A lower Canadian dollar makes farm inputs more expensive, but the net impact in terms of our export competitiveness and cash receipts for producers is certainly positive,” Gervais says. “Given the choice, producers are better off with a low-dollar than one that’s relatively strong compared to the U.S. dollar.”

Food processors
Food processors are also better off with a low Canadian dollar, which is partly the reason behind the strong growth in the gross domestic product of the sector over the past few years. Canadian food products are less expensive for foreign buyers, while it is more difficult for foreign food processors to compete in the Canadian market, according to Gervais.

“The climate for investment in Canadian food processing is good, given the low dollar and growing demand in the U.S.,” Gervais says. He projects that exports of food manufactured products to the US could climb five per cent in 2017.

Agribusinesses
A lower-than-average U.S. per Canadian dollar exchange rate supports foreign sales of agribusinesses as more than 90 per cent of all exports are made to the U.S., and compensate for a weaker demand due to the recent downturn in the U.S. farm economy.

“The dollar’s impact on agribusinesses is complex and not as consistent as it is on producers and food processors,” said Gervais, noting that strong farm cash receipts due to a weak loonie are generally good news for agribusinesses, since they can expect sales to producers to increase with rising revenues.

But he also notes that “a weak loonie raises the price of inputs like fertilizers or equipment, making them more expensive for producers, which may impact their purchase decisions.”

For an in-depth analysis of the impact of the Canadian dollar and Gervais’s four other economic drivers to watch in 2017, visit the FCC Ag Economics blog post at www.fcc.ca/AgEconomics
Published in Farm Business
A new study, Dollars and Sense, by Kynetec (formerly Ipsos Agriculture and Animal Health) has identified the top seven habits of Canada’s best farmers.  For the first time, researchers have established a direct link between farm business management planning and higher farm income and profitability.

According to the report, leading Canadian farm businesses in the top 25 per cent financially out-perform those in the bottom 25 per cent by a wide margin: a 525 per cent increase in return on assets (ROA), 155 per cent increase in gross margin ratio, and 100 per cent increases in return on equity (ROE) and asset turnover.

“This is the first time we clearly see how specific business management practices positively affect a farm’s financial outcomes,” says Agri-Food Management Institute (AMI) executive director, Ashley Honsberger. “Management matters and this study illustrates just how much of an impact the top habits
can have.”  

The study, commissioned by AMI and Farm Management Canada, included 604 farms of all types and sizes, and farmers of all ages, nationwide, in the grains and oilseeds, beef, hogs, poultry and eggs, dairy, and horticulture sectors.

The leading driver of farm financial success is continuous learning. Farms in the bottom 25 per cent are three times less likely to seek out new information, training or learning opportunities.

Number two is keeping finances current so that key farm decisions are made based on an accurate financial picture of the business. Farms in the bottom quartile are three times more likely to have financial records that are months behind and are also almost three times more likely not to monitor their cost of production.

The third driver of farm success is seeking the help of professional business advisors or consultants. Farms in the top quartile are 30 per cent more likely to work regularly with a farm business advisor or team of advisors.

Four other drivers also ranked highly: having a formal business plan, knowing and monitoring cost of production, assessing and managing risk, and using budgets and financial plans.

Of the 55 poultry and egg farmers surveyed nationwide, 69 per cent felt the financial health of their farm was a little or much better now compared to five years ago.

The top 25 per cent of poultry and egg farms shows a five per cent ROA compared to 0 per cent in the bottom 25 per cent; 37.7 per cent gross margin ratio compared to 0 percent; 15.6 per cent ROE compared to 15.4 per cent; and 13.6 per cent asset turnover compared to 10.1 per cent.

Poultry and egg farmers lead the pack. Thirty-six per cent have a formal business plan, well ahead of the 25 per cent average of all other farmers, 36 per cent have a financial plan with budget objectives, which again is higher than the average of all other farmers at 33 per cent, and 26 per cent have a formal human resources plan, considerably more than the 17 per cent average of all other farmers.

The study also showed that 69 per cent use supply chain relationships to add value, which is significantly higher than the 49 per cent of all other farmers.

Honsberger advises farmers considering making business management changes to divide a large task into smaller steps, such as using the off-season to attend education events or meet with a business advisor.

A resource for farmers, dubbed “Pledge to Plan” can also help with business management activities for each season, support tools, and stories of producers who’ve already gone through the process. It’s available at pledgetoplan.ca.

The study was funded through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

About the Agri-Food Management Institute 
AMI promotes new ways of thinking about agribusiness management and aims to increase awareness, understanding and adoption of beneficial business management practices by Ontario agri-food and agri-based producers and processors.
Published in Farm Business
October 19, 2016 - The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) refers to permitted business deductions in a number of sections of the Income Tax Act (ITA). However, these deductions can only be used if the taxpayer can show their business has a reasonable expectation of profit. The problem is that reasonable expectation of profit is not defined in the ITA so how is “reasonable expectation of profit” applied for tax purposes?  

Farm losses and restricted farm losses are a prime example of the interpretive confusion that might exist under Section 31 of the Tax Act. These rules limit the amount of losses from a farming operation that can be deducted from other income by taxpayers whose chief source of income is neither farming nor a combination of farming and some other source.

There is extensive case-law dealing with the issue of what a taxpayer's "chief source" of income is for this purpose. The last bench-mark case found in favour of a producer and ignored whether the source of income was a combination of farming or some other source. The court ruling did not factor the government’s contention that farm income had to be the main source of income.

The court decision didn’t last long because the federal budget of 2013 introduced a change to the Act that reinforced the government’s earlier interpretation of the legislation. The amendment states that if your chief source of income is not farming, then the restricted farm loss rules apply. Farm losses in this case may reduce income from other sources for the year only to the extent of the lesser of the farm loss for the year or $2,500 plus half of the farm loss exceeding $2,500 to a maximum of $15,000.

The deduction for the farm loss for a year is therefore limited to a maximum of $17,500 representing an actual loss of $32,500. Any farming loss which is not deductible currently by virtue of Section 31 becomes a "restricted farm loss".

There are subtle differences in the way CRA categorizes two sets of farmers.
  1. The taxpayer who does not look to farming or to farming and some subordinate source of income for his livelihood but carries on farming as a sideline business
  2. The taxpayer who does not look to farming or to farming and some subordinate source of income for his livelihood and who carries on farming activities with no reasonable expectation of profit.
Whether a taxpayer has a reasonable expectation of profit from his farming operations is a subjective or objective determination to be made from all of the facts.  Some of the criteria to be considered are:

  • Extent of activity in relation to businesses of comparable nature and size
  • Amount of gross revenue from farming in relation to the relevant expenses
  • Time spent in the operation as compared to other income earning activities
  • Profit and loss experience in the past years
  • Taxpayer's training
  • Taxpayer's intended course of action
  • Capability of the venture as capitalized to show a profit after charging capital cost allowance
As you might expect, the importance of documenting and supporting the above noted criteria will assist you in ensuring you can claim your farm losses.
Published in Farm Business

Oct. 14, 2016 - Farming is a unique type of business that causes financial planning to take on dimensions not often seen in other industries. This is reflected in the Income Tax Act, which has numerous provisions for things like farm income, tax deductions, various subsidies, and more.

 It can feel at times overwhelming and hard to keep up-to-date. Fortunately, there are people with the knowledge and expertise who can help.

Engaging an accounting or tax planning firm can give your farm the ability to grasp the nuances of the tax laws and get the most tax deductions and minimal liabilities possible.

Navigate an ever-changing landscape
Small businesses and farms are subject to various types of subsidies and tax quirks that the provincial and federal governments use to help spur growth or respond to situations like droughts or cold snaps.

Tax legislation relevant to farming and small business are regularly tinkered with as government tries to respond to industry shifts, projections and predictions, or other concerns that may or may not be more hype than substance.

Knowledge is power when dealing with subsidies, and managed accounting can give you the power needed to keep track of the benefits you qualify for as well as how to take advantage of them.

Reconcile reality with government
Government works best when things can be precise and measured. As any farmer knows, nature doesn't always care for timetables. This can lead to situations where seemingly trivial differences in how an animal or piece of equipment is used can affect how it gets classified for tax purposes.

Tax planners can help you interact with this sort of bureaucratic matter and ensure you don't inadvertently run afoul of the Canada Revenue Agency or miss out on a tax deduction you should've been able to claim.

Accounting for it all
Among the various types of income that need to get reported are profits from property or livestock sale, breeding fees, renting fees, incidental income, all taxable subsidy and conservation payments, and gross income from other sources.

Expenses can include things like feed, pest management products, fertilizer, and more.

Even if you don't have an upcoming tax filing to make, this all results in a great deal of numbers to keep track of. Accounting services can help you stay on top of your income and expenses so you can have a full and accurate view of your financial situation.

FBC is Canada's Farm & Small Business Tax Specialist, providing tax accounting and bookkeeping services to over 20,000 farms and small businesses from Ontario to British Columbia. Our complete financial planning for farm and small business owners takes a long-term approach to address your specific needs at all stages of life and business, minimizing your taxes year after year. Year-round services include tax planning, tax optimization, business consulting and audit protection.

 
Published in Farm Business

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