Canadas Agriculture Industry

Need for Immigrant Workers in Canada’s Agriculture Industry

Farmers allow for food to be grown domestically so that the supply chain isn’t as subject to global events. As can be seen with the current conflict in Ukraine inflating the cost of living, this is important for the average Canadian consumer. Unfortunately, a new report from RBC predicts massive labour shortages if more people aren’t brought into the agricultural business. As good news for people looking to farm in Canada, the report also calls for 30,000 immigrants to be accepted into Canada’s agricultural economy.

Let’s explore more about what this means for Canadian farms and immigrants hoping to enter that sector.

Massive labour shortage coming

The report predicts that 40% of Canadian farm operators will retire by 2023. Furthermore, by the same year, there is expected to be a shortage of 24,000 general farm, nursery and greenhouse workers. Additionally, 66% of current producers don’t have a plan for who will take over from them once they retire.

The age of the average Canadian farmer, their total numbers, and the total land being farmed have all been steadily decreasing over time as well. In 2001, there were 346,000 farmers with an average age of 50 years old. However, by 2021, these numbers fell to 262,000 farmers with an average age of 56. Additionally, the total land being farmed during that time fell from 166 million acres to 153 million acres.

What this means for immigrants

Being able to attract foreign workers into Canada’s agricultural sector is a key part of the report’s short-term planning. Moreover, it calls for the government to provide permanent immigration status to 24,000 general farm workers and 30,000 operators. The report also points out how the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) immigration stream is insufficient to meet this need because workers might have their jobs in Canada disrupted through needing to return to their home country for short amounts of time.

Further, the report calls for a similar approach to be taken in attracting farmers to Canada as the government has taken in courting the immigration of scientists, data engineers, and entrepreneurs. Finally, farms around the developed world are being closed down for environmental reasons. This gives the government a great opportunity to support these farmers’ immigration into Canada.

Currently, there is an Agri-Food Pilot that supports people immigrating to Canada. Under this pilot, people with a full-time, non-seasonal job offer from a Canadian employer can immigrate to Canada. This needs to be in one of the eligible industries and occupations. Applicants also need to meet other language, educational, and economic requirements. The pathway for this pilot also leads to permanent residence for those accepted. On the other hand, this pilot has only accepted roughly 1,500 people since 2020. The pilot was also originally designed for 2,750 people, far lower than the amount needed.

A new approach, akin to the Global Talent Stream, can encourage farmers with a specific amount of capital, to come to Canada and help facilitate the leadership transition on farms. And by expanding current programs and recognizing farming skills as a priority, Canada can bring in at least 3,000 skilled farm operators per year for the next decade.

Report: Farmers Wanted: The labour renewal Canada needs to build the Next Green Revolution

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    Andrea Neira