Bringing the Workers to the Farm: The Importance of Temporary Foreign Workers in Canadian Agriculture

The Conference Board of Canada, April 5, 2017
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Labour shortages on Canada’s farms have doubled over the past decade. They are expected to double again in the next 10 years. Simply paying Canadians more to work in the sector or buying more machines is unlikely to make up this gap.

Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have played a major role in filling the labour gap in the past and will likely need to play a growing role in the future. Without TFWs, it is likely that a significant portion of Canadian farm land would lie fallow.

One way of thinking of TFWs is in terms of globalization; rather than bringing the farms to where the workers are, we are bringing the workers to the farms.

Join Michael Burt, the Conference Board of Canada’s Director, Industrial Economic Trends, for this presentation of Conference Board research about the current state of the agricultural labour force; the importance of temporary foreign workers in the sector; and policy options that governments and the sector could pursue.

This webinar is based on the report Sowing the Seeds of Growth: Temporary Foreign Workers in Agriculture, produced by The Conference Board of Canada commissioned by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC). CAHRC is a national, non-profit organization focused on addressing human resource issues facing agricultural businesses across Canada. CAHRC conducts industry research and develops products and services designed to help agricultural employers attract, retain, and develop the workforce they need to succeed.

Webinar Highlights

During this webinar, Michael will describe the reasons why TFWs are increasingly important to the agriculture sector:

  • The circumstances leading to the growing labour gap—an aging workforce, large seasonal fluctuations in employment, the rural location of many operations, and negative perceptions about working in the sector.
  • Why higher wages or more machines are not the only solutions— a price-sensitive sector such as agriculture competes for seasonal workers with higher-paying sectors such as construction; and farm operations are already highly mechanized.
  • The impact of immigration trends on the agriculture sector — farm work has not been able to attract a “fair share” of the immigrants who are coming to Canada.
  • Policy options to help alleviate the labour shortage, such as, making it easier for TFWs to apply for permanent residency; utilizing the Provincial Nominee Program to bring in agricultural workers; and expanding the National Commodities List to better reflect the make-up of the agriculture sector.

About Michael

Photo of Michael BurtAs Director, Industrial Economic Trends, Michael Burt oversees regular forecasts for more than 30 different sectors of the Canadian economy. Michael joined The Conference Board of Canada in 2004. In addition to contributing to the development of the Industrial Outlook forecast model, Michael has introduced new industry-specific products and conducted commissioned analysis. Michael has a Master's degree in Economics from the University of Toronto, and has also completed the Chartered Financial Analyst program.

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