An assessment of the association between agricultural production and land quality for regional planning
Several associations were documented between selected characteristics of agricultural production and the quality of the land for annual dryland crop production in two regions surrounding Edmonton, Alberta. The study, using 1986 Census of Agriculture Enumeration Area data, found that the five landscapes in the Lake Edmonton Basin (LEB) region had high quality resources for annual dryland crop production according to the Canada Land Inventory (CLI) rating system. Agricultural production in this region had higher capital investment in land and buildings and equipment, relatively more invested in these factors of production for each dollar invested in livestock, larger average total farm area, a higher proportion of cultivated area and lower livestock densities, compared to a region of lower land quality. The three landscapes in the Morainal Areas (MA) region were considered to have lower quality land resources due to less favourable agroclimate, poorer soils and greater variation in surface topography. They showed higher capital investment in livestock, smaller average total farm area, less extensive annual cultivation and higher livestock densities. These results were expected and confirmed. However, associations were not found for economic efficiency, as measured by the sales to expenses ratio, nor for total capital investment per hectare of total farm area. Based on these results, the study reached two conclusions concerning the association between agricultural production and land quality. First, producers maintain economic efficiency by changing the distribution, not necessarily the total amount of, capital in association with the quality of land resources. Second, comparable economic efficiencies can be achieved between regions with different land quality when production decisions are adapted to the land resources characteristics. These conclusion have important implications to the representation of agricultural production in the regional planning process. The regional planning process, as it relates to the representation of the agricultural industry, may be based on a potentially incorrect assumption. The goal of ensuring the economic viability of the agricultural industry in a region is based on the policy of conserving the highest quality lands for annual crop production. The underlying assumption is that these lands support the most efficient type of production. By extension, this type of production is, therefore, the most critical to the continued viability of the industry. This study has found, however, that economic efficiency of production, and the economic viability of the agricultural industry, are not necessarily related to land quality. Thus, planners in the future may wish to consider additional information on agricultural production, not just a single land rating system, to properly represent and assess the industry in a regional context.