Ag labour shortage called critical

The labour shortage in beef production could reach 12,000 workers by 2025, says a new report on Canada’s agricultural labour market.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said the industry needs to find a solution as soon as possible.

“This is an issue we need to get moving on. Every day we hold back on this we’re losing sales. We’re seeing people balking at (expanding) their operations,” said Dennis Laycraft, CCA executive vice-president.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) released a research paper last week titled: Agriculture 2025: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future.

CAHRC based the report on a survey of more than 1,000 employers in agriculture, meetings with industry leaders, webinars and six focus groups with ag sector representatives.

Of all the commodities within agriculture, western Canadian products may be most affected.

“Grain and oilseed and beef producers will experience the largest increases in their labour gaps, and account for much of the increase in the labour gap for the sector as a whole,” the report noted.

In its forecast, CAHRC predicted:

  • Canada’s ag industry had a shortfall of 59,000 employees in 2014 and the shortage could grow to 114,000 workers by 2025.
  • The labour shortage in grain and oilseed production was about 5,000 workers in 2014. That may expand to 17,000 employees in 2025.
  • In 2014, the labour shortage in beef production was around 3,000 employees. That may grow to 12,000 by 2025.

Debra Hauer, CAHRC project manager, said production and exports of Canadian beef, grains and oilseeds are expected to climb over the next decade. Therefore, the beef and grains sectors will need to hire more people.

If beef production does expand in Canada as projected, cattle ranchers could struggle with labour issues because thousands of employees may soon leave the industry.

“By 2025, just under one-third of the segment’s current domestic workforce is expected to retire,” the report noted. “In combination with weak inflows of new workers, this will result in beef producers experiencing the largest decline in their labour supply within agriculture over the forecast period, with supply in 2025 expected to be 17 percent below where it stood in 2014.”

With the labour shortfall likely to continue to get worse, beef producers will likely need to rely on immigrants to fill the vacancies. However, ranchers want stable, long-term employees and hope to have that wish granted with federal changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program expected in December.

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