Farm labour shortfall expected to soar

Prairie grain growers may soon be desperate for on-farm workers because a new report predicts a labour shortfall of more than 17,000 in Canada.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, in a study released this morning, said Canada’s grain and oilseed industry employed 55,800 people in 2014.

Between 2014 and 2025, labour demand in the sector is expected to increase 0.6 percent annually.

At the same time, the pool of domestic workers for grain and oilseed jobs is expected to shrink by 1.4 percent per year, mostly because of retirements.

So, by 2025:

•    The labour shortage in grain and oilseed production is predicted to reach 17,400, compared to 5,700 in 2014.

•    In Saskatchewan, the shortfall is expected to expand by 4,600 over the next decade.

•    In Alberta, it’s expected to grow by 3,500 people.

CAHRC pointed to several factors to explain the labour shortage:

• Almost one in three Canadians employed in the grain and oilseed industry are expected to retire by 2025.

• The industry doesn’t have access to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, which supplies foreign employees for fruit and vegetable production in Canada.

• It can be difficult for grain and oilseed producers to hire employees through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The lack of labour is already having an impact. CAHRC estimated that the shortage of 5,700 employees in 2014 caused a $569 million loss in product sales.

This fall the council is publishing a series of reports on labour issues in Canada’s agri-food industry to highlight the challenges and remind the federal government of the importance of agriculture. The reports are based on surveys of agri-food employers, webinars and focus groups with industry reps.

Agri-food leaders are hoping the government makes it easier for farmers and food processors to attract and retain immigrant employees.

The Liberal government is amending the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. It’s expected to announce changes sometime in December.


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  • ed

    With the demise of the farmers own price positive Canadian Wheat Board single desk selling monopoly, (cartel if you will), the financial future of agriculture in Western Canada has slipped from a strong poor rating to bleak. The national ag debt is sky rocketing at ever increasing rates and the previous fortunes, (approx. $4 billion annually), are not only being graphed off by foreign multi-national mob like grain companies, but the spin off revenue, commonly accepted to be roughly 9-10 fold the gross grain sales, is missing completely and these missing Canadian revenues are now taxed in other nations as it crosses borders at less than half of previous farm gate prices adjusted for inflation. This does not bode well for hiring labor to replace the sons and daughters that have fleed to the cities. At $40/hour there would not be near the shortage of labor that we see today, but sadly the most important industry in our nation can barely scratch up minimum wages and don’t you dare bring up the topic about paying workers compensation or other normal employee benefits. Poor political understanding and inept farm group leadership has slowly lead to this tragic situation and it is unlikely to change directions anytime soon. All this was accurately predicted and is in handsert format available online from the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture meetings with farmers and industry on the CWB proposed changes in late November/early Dec. 2011, previous to the passing of the legislation that killed the farmers Board. I hate to say I told you so, but…..just saying!

    • Jerry

      Ed your spot on!i couldnt agree more.agriculture and rural canada are in a very rapid decline!as a young farmer i cant see my future out here as many of my forefathers have. People need people and services as the city is much more attractive or at least living a reasonable distance from one.

      • ed

        You got it. Best of all worlds. Work in city, drive home and enjoy low property taxes and some farmer write off, maybe some next to free eggs, garden veggies and/or a litre of milk from your lawn mowing cow, an occasional steak and home made wine that you make in your spare time. You can also enjoy the upside land value on the acres you do decide to keep and reduce your work load by renting most of it out at a high price driven by the high wheat prices that are being enjoyed by other brilliant happy farmers. Life is a HIGHWAY!

    • Happy Farmer

      As a current farmer I do not see the negative side of losing the Wheat Board. I have been paid higher prices for my wheat every since it has been gone. I choose to move forward, making the best of the current selling market.

      Also as a farmer, I would like to pay my workers at a competitive level with other industries. I would also like to pay them with competitive benefits. BUT, 1 of 2 things needs to happen for us as farmers to get behind better pay. 1. We must get rid of the “cheap food policy” that is prevalent in North America. This will allow better profit margins for farmers, in turn making it possible to pay better. Seriously, North Americans pay approximately 4-7% of their disposable income on food. This is considerably lower than the rest of the world. Food prices here have not or will not be rising due to farmers, but rather to processors and stuff like carbon taxes.

      2. Farmers must be granted the ability to charge for our products, like all other industries. Don’t expect us to be in favour of increased wages and carbon taxes if we are supposed to take it out of our bottom line.

      • richard

        … The “cheap food policy” you refer to is in fact the “cheap agriculture policy”, otherwise known as “grow more get less”?….. The happy price for your wheat you are so flattered by sans CWB, is the same price we received in 1978, when I started farming……Now lets see…. that forty thousand dollar combine in 78 is now four hundred thousand…..ouch!

        • Happy Farmer

          I have lived on the same farm since 1962. To the best of my knowledge for my delivery area, prices for HRSW have been consistently been better after the Single Desk CWB.

          No, a cheap food policy is exactly what it means. North American consumers pay too little for their food. They also have the best selection with regards to whatever they want to eat. They need to start paying more out of respect to farmers(all types of farmers).

          • richard

            They pay too little for their food because producers are willing to give it away at below the cost of production….. There is no cheap food policy…. just desperate farmers. The only “policy” here is the prevailing “feed the planet” mythology that drives overproduction, dumping…..and an entire generation of mental and physical obesity….. entitlement to eighty nine cent greaseball burgers and high fructose ADHD drinks….

          • Harold

            If every person had the money that they needed, “cheap food” would not be what the consumer is looking for. Low income and debt fuel the need to seek a lower price. Canadians are awash in debt and low wages. This reality has nothing to do with a lack of respect to farmers. The few times that I have heard of farmers showing self-respect, was in the creation of the CWB, and again every time they threatened a strike, or engaged in activism.
            If it’s not self-respect, what is it?. Farmers are the threat, not some yahoo speaking of world hunger, and you it’s slave.
            The whole Agriculture system, in my opinion, is chocked full of organizations that are supported, yet have no real direct value to the farmer, but taking truck loads of money just the same. The Farmer and the consumer have two hands, and the one hand is giving to Government, and the other hand giving to the corporate. The government and the corporate only have one hand – the receiving hand. Tax breaks and programs are giving back with the same receiving hand. What are we truly receiving in return?

      • Bruce

        Number one the price of grain like wheat is set on the world market using the supply demand theory. Number two there is nothing stopping grain farmers from working together as a group to increase their product prices. Sounds much like the CWB.

        • Happy Farmer

          If you are correct, why did we never receive better prices with the CWB? (Perhaps we let it be run by people other than us farmers)?

      • Harold

        I don’t see you as one who has chosen to move forward, due to the fact that to choose anything, there must be option’s in place. The current selling market is without the choice of the former CWB. There were problems associated with the CWB, but I am of the opinion that it was reckless to “throw the baby out with the bath water” when a total restructure was or may be all that was needed. When CWB was Canadian owned there a nothing wrong with the concept, only the delivery per say. Improvement was not 49% Canadian ownership from 100%. How does your “higher prices” compare to the price that you need to run your business? This is what Ed has attempted to explain.
        There is no “cheep food policy” as you say, because the farmer and the consumer both, are lacking income, and are therefore on a quest of no choice but to consume at the lowest cost product. It is truly a shame for this to exist within a country of abundance, but yet no abundant wealth. Sadly, most people are more offended by the “middle finger” than what they aught to be offended by. Your energy and the energy of the consumers create the money which is being taken away from you by the un-deserving, and leading you to the labor shortage. Energy produces product and product creates money and it’s circulation. No energy, and money is not created. There are leaches of “no energy” upon the money that your energy has created. Who are they? Equal money for equal value.
        Ed or I, cannot In this forum give you the complete details, but nonetheless, they are not hidden if you question and look,

        • Dayton

          CWB was a scam. Created jobs outside of the farm gate at farmers expense nothing more. Designed for lazy farmers who couldn’t price check.

          • Harold

            Giving away 51% of what we own into foreign ownership is what? Legitimate Canadian business?
            Calling farmer’s lazy or incompetent, does not add any weight to your opinion.

  • Welderone

    Happy Farmer, Richard and ed are correct. The world is awash with wheat. And I agree with them also. This is the reason the price you receive for wheat is the current price and not $12.00 a bushel. The world would have to use up billions of bushels from the carry over stocks of wheat to increase the price to double digits. In the meantime the real winners are the grain buyers.


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