Scholarship on the ‘global land grab’ has placed financial actors and financialization processes at the centre of recent farmland acquisitions and investments in large-scale agricultural ventures. This paper contributes to this body of work by examining the emergence of Farmland Investment Funds (FIFs) in the Canadian Prairie Provinces amidst the ongoing financialization of family farming systems in the region. Postulating that a highly financialized agricultural sector is one where profits are raised mainly through rent and the appreciation of farmland, as well as through interest, dividends, and capital gains on agricultural ventures, I show how FIFs have sought to harness these channels. While FIFs result in part from increased demand for prairie farmland on the basis of its performance as a financial asset, the funds’ growth has similarly depended on a set of factors working to supply land to the vehicles, including a long period of declining farm incomes, steady and accelerating land appreciation, prairie farmers’ gradual shift towards leasing (rather than owning) farmland, and climbing farm debt. I review the key features of FIFs and their implications for agricultural restructuring on the Prairies, showing how the funds further concentrate farmland ownership, shift patterns of wealth and risk accrual from owning and using farmland, deepen the circulation of interest bearing capital within regional farmland markets, and introduce new financial actors, priorities, and subjectivities into prairie farming systems. My findings generate insights into large-scale land transactions in other global settings, and contribute to current understandings of the ‘land grab’ and the financialization of agriculture and other natural resource sectors.
Sommerville, M. LDPI Working Paper 38. Financializing Prairie farmland.Farmland investment funds and the restructuring of family farming systems in central Canada. (2013) 33 pp.