Getting into the Field: Labour Issues in Agriculture

Quick facts


Issue overview

Like any industry, agriculture requires an adequate workforce to keep operations going. Farmers continue to identify chronic and critical labour shortages as one of the most pressing risks facing Canadian agriculture and a major constraint on both agricultural growth and global competitiveness. Agriculture is complex industry that faces unique workforce challenges due to rural depopulation and seasonal production of highly perishable products.

This issue has been further exacerbated by COVID-19, which saw global travel restrictions. While the government has allowed temporary foreign workers into the country and helped farmers fund the two-week quarantine period upon entry, these workers have arrived in less numbers than usual and not in a timely fashion due to delays and need to quarantine.

COVID has shown that a reliance on foreign labour represents a large vulnerability when travel is restricted, and a National Agri-Food Labour and Automation Strategy will be needed to help combat these problems long-term.


Working toward solutions

In relation to COVID-19, CFA continues to monitor and give input on measures to protect Temporary Foreign Workers, as well as identifying policy issues and roadblocks that are limiting farmers from accessing interested and otherwise available international labour.

CFA continues its work with the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), as part of a broad coalition of industry representatives working with government officials towards implementation of a National Agri-Food Labour and Automation Strategy, designed to address the sector’s critical and pervasive labour shortages.


CFA Recommendations


See also:

CFA brief on workforce issues

Canadian Agriculture and Agri-food Workforce Action Plan


Further information on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, including its history and relationship to Canadian agriculture, can be found here.