Land Grabs on the Prairie? Investigating farmland ownership in Manitoba, Canada

Authors: Hannah Bihun*, University of Manitoba
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Food Systems, Canada
Keywords: farmland, financialization, land grabbing
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Land grabbing, the large-scale purchase of farmland by domestic or foreign investors, is a phenomenon on the rise worldwide. This phenomenon is best understood within the emerging framework of financialization, the process and mechanisms by which financial actors accumulate more capital thus increasing their presence and power within national and global economies. Despite a lack of empirical research on the topic, some of the effects of financialization in the agri-food sector are visible in the province of Manitoba, including rising farmland prices and increasing farmland concentration, resulting in fewer and larger farms. This paper investigates changing farmland ownership in four rural municipalities with high valued farmland in Manitoba. Through 39 in-depth interviews with farmers, rural municipal officials and staff, and others involved in the agriculture industry, I outline the dynamics of farmland ownership, including who is buying farmland, the differences between rented and owned land, how the “good farmer” narrative shapes perceptions and interactions amongst farmers, and what impacts ownership changes can have on rural communities and livelihoods. There is not significant evidence to suggest that land grabs are occurring in Manitoba. However, farmers themselves are playing the role of both investor and farmer as farmland prices continue to rise above the productive value of the land, and justifying land purchases at these prices means speculating on the potential value of that land in the future.

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