Ag labour shortage getting worse

Agriculture has the highest job vacancy rate of any industry in Canada, and that labour shortfall may soon become much larger.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) released results of a labour market information survey of primary agriculture March 15 in Winnipeg. The CAHRC report, based on data from 2014, indicates the gap between labour demand in primary agriculture and the supply of domestic employees willing to work in farming is 59,000. By 2025, the ag labour shortage could nearly double, growing to 114,000.

The shortfall will likely expand because the supply of Canadians willing to work on farms is expected to shrink over the next decade. Immigrants, young graduates and people coming from other sectors will provide a population of newcomers to agriculture, but that won’t offset the losses of retiring farmers and retiring farm labourers between now and 2025.

“These new findings from CAHRC clearly highlight the need for a long-term strategy that will address the challenges Canadian producers are facing due to labour issues,” said Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnett.

The 59,000 gap represents the difference between labour demand and supply in primary agriculture. Put another way, it’s the number of people farm businesses want to hire compared to the number of Canadians willing to work in agriculture.

CAHRC surveyed 1,034 people to assemble its data. The survey generated a slew of data on ag labour:


• In 2004, the labour gap in primary agriculture was 30,100 people. By 2014 it had increased to 59,200.

• Unfilled vacancies cost the primary ag industry $1.5 billion in lost sales in 2014, or 2.7 percent of the sector’s total sales.

• The lack of labour caused higher rates of lost sales in the fruit and vegetable sector, hogs and grains and oilseeds.

• 17 percent of employers who participated in the survey said they had delayed or cancelled expansion plans because they couldn’t find farm workers.

• The top three impediments to recruiting ag labourers were:


• the seasonal nature of farm work

• convincing people to live in rural areas

• the wage gap between farm work and the average wage in Canada

• The survey found the weekly wages in primary agriculture, on average, were 72 percent of the weekly wages for all economic sectors in Canada.



  • Alex

    Yes there is labour shortage but my experience is also that retail companies (the big companies included) are becoming ridiculous is their expectations. My example: I can’t work for the Ag retail company my husband works for because of conflict of interest. But the competition is also refusing to hire me because my husband works for their competition. Result, I can’t continue in my career and job openings aren’t getting filled. It’s a double edged sword!

  • ed

    Get the net incomes up on farms so you can pay full time labour $30-40 / hour and the problem will be solved.

    • John McMurray

      A quick look at your numbers explains why there is a “shortage”. 60,000 more employees in the ag sector would generate $1.5 billion in revenue (not profit, gross revenue). This works out to $25,000 revenue per employee. Out of that $25,000 the rent, capital costs, equipment repair and depreciation, fuel, and so on all must be paid. The employee benefits must also be covered and some profit for the employer. What’s left after all that is the employee’s wage which may be half of the $25,000 in revenue = $12,500. StatsCan reports the 2013 Low income cut off (poverty line) in Canada for a single person is $12,935


      The bottom line is farming is not profitable enough be able to pay employees a wage above the poverty line.

      For comparison consider this 2012 Globe and Mail report (… showing an average revenue per employee of $421,000. 17 times higher than $25,000 revenue of a farm worker.

      • ed

        So as best as I can ascertain from this, you are in full agreement with me. I think.

        • John McMurray

          Yes. I had meant to comment on the article not just your reply. The problem isn’t a lack of farm workers as much as a lack of revenue in agriculture to pay a decent wage.

  • Nel Lishniki

    Any supposed labour shortage in agriculture can draw inspiration from an apparently perennial shortage of skilled trades labour: There isn’t one.

    There is, however, a distinct shortage of employers who are willing or capable of paying a solid, liveable wage, under reasonable working conditions in rural areas, across the board. You want quality individuals? Pay a premium wage, provide incentives to stay, and they will come a-running.

  • stephen webster

    Many of us are doing others jobs other truck driving or working in agriculture. I am currently working in construction have a degree in ABM in agriculture a class #1 lic. I am working in On. in construction at $25.00 plus .