The Value of Alberta's Forage Industry: A Multi-Level Analysis

 
 
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 The purpose of this report is to provide a snapshot of the Alberta forage industry, with the hopes that it will be used to increase awareness of its value to the agriculture industry and its role in helping to maintain the environment. The publication of this report is the culmination of a cooperative effort by government and industry to address an identified need. In this case, the partners were Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and the Alberta Forage Industry Network, with input from various facets of the Alberta forage industry.
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This report should be considered a preliminary account of the value of Alberta's forage resources. Every effort was taken to ensure accuracy using the most recent date and literature available.

Executive Summary
The forage industry in Alberta is extremely diverse, and includes native range (natural land for pasture, including native pasture/hay, rangeland and grazeable bush), tame/seeded pasture, hayland, annual forage (fodder) crops, grass and legume seed, alfalfa leafcutter bees and sod. This diversity has led to some fragmentation amongst the different forage sectors, making it difficult to assess the overall industry value. In addition, the fact that many forage products are primarily used on their farm of origin and do not enter any formal marketing channel makes collecting statistics on production and pricing challenging.

This report examines the estimated direct and indirect economic value created by the forage industry in Alberta. The estimated direct value will be stated as it relates to the use of the different sectors' primary products. The value for each product will be based on its total production and sale (market) price, where available. The estimated indirect value is difficult to quantify as a great deal of uncertainty surrounds the valuation methodologies available. In this report, the indirect value forages generate is due to their contribution to ecosystem functions and other ecological goods and services. Forages in Alberta provide numerous benefits to the citizens of this province due to their role in protecting the integrity of the environment.

According to the last published Census of Agriculture (Statistics Canada, 2006), Alberta contained more than 28.5 million acres (11.6 million hectares) of forage land. Producers reported 16.1 million acres (6.5 million hectares) of native range (natural land for pasture), 6.1 million acres (2.5 million hectares) of tame/seeded pasture and over 244,000 acres (98,900 hectares) of forage seed. Corn silage was grown on just over 70,000 acres (28,500 hectares) and all other hay and fodder crops covered more than 5.9 million acres (2.4 million hectares). Forage crops cover more acreage in the province than any other agricultural crop, reinforcing the need to accurately track their acreage, products, market price and define their value.

Through a comprehensive valuation and analysis of each forage sector present in Alberta, this report has concluded that forages make substantial contributions to the economic and environmental sustainability of the province. Major findings include:

    • Estimated direct economic value generated by forages is approximately $1.6 billion annually, based on the production and sale of numerous forage products from a diverse group of sectors.
    • Forages create indirect value through ecological goods and services they provide. Forages contribute to erosion control, water regulation, wildlife habitat, recreation, pollination and carbon sequestration. Based on the studies and references cited, forages generate an estimated $0.5 to $2.2 billion annually in relation to these goods and services.
    • Taken together, the annual total estimated direct and indirect economic value of the forage industry in Alberta ranges from $2.1 to $3.8 billion.
The values reported here are estimates, based on the statistics, market information and literature available. Since the publication of this report, some values may have changed due to the influence of external factors on the forage industry (weather, commodity markets, livestock markets, etc.). Data and statistics from more recent years may have been released as well. There were some instances where up-to-date state and statistics were unavailable. As a result, industry experts were consulted and their value estimations used.

The Value of Alberta's Forage Industry: A Multi-Level Analysis
 
 
 
 
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Janet Fletcher.
This information published to the web on March 29, 2012.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 8, 2017.