Federal
March 20, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – Government officials were in Winnipeg recently to provide remarks at the Canadian Horticultural Council 95th Annual General Meeting, where he announced more than $274,000 in Growing Forward 2 funding to help expand markets for Canadian potatoes.
 
This project, funded under the AgriMarketing Program, provides the CHC with up to $274,714 to help grow foreign and domestic markets for Canadian potatoes, through trade shows, targeted advertising, incoming missions, market research and development, and product promotion.

“The Canadian Horticultural Council and the Canadian Potato Council appreciate the funding received through the AgriMarketing Program, Market Development Stream, to support the export growth of high quality Canadian seed and fresh potatoes,” said Keith Kuhl, outgoing president of the CHC.

This investment is part of the federal government’s plan to help Canadian farmers expand markets at home and abroad.
 
“The funding has allowed Canadian growers to maintain a presence in international markets by participating in tradeshows, international standard setting processes, and in phytosanitary market access activities,” said John Bareman, chair of the CHC’s Potato Committee.
In late January, I walked into the first afternoon of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Industry Conference with a swagger in my step. I was going to learn something that many in my sphere of influence were still struggling with: What to expect from a Trump presidency.
December 15, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is pleased with the federal government's announcement yesterday that the cumulative duration limit, or "four-in, four-out" rule, will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers.
 
In recent meetings with government officials, CFA has expressed concern that this rule has created unnecessary hardship for employers already struggling to fulfill their labour requirements. It has limited the pool of available, experienced workers and led to significant retraining costs while reducing productivity. Ultimately, it has limited opportunities for temporary foreign workers to attain permanent residency. CFA continues to see increased pathways to permanent residency as a vital component of any long-term strategy to reduce Canadian agriculture's labour shortages.

"The government's early action on this file is a critical step forward and CFA is eager to work with government and industry partners in the coming months on a more comprehensive suite of meaningful changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and broader labour market programming," said CFA President Ron Bonnett.

Removing the cumulative duration rule was one of several recommendations that CFA presented to the House of Commons human resources committee earlier this year.

With recent research from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council highlighting nearly 60,000 vacancies in primary agriculture alone – a figure expected to increase to 114,000 by 2025 – these changes come as a welcome and important move towards meaningful change.

Labour constraints in agriculture continue to cost the industry approximately $1.5 billion in lost sales each year. Farm groups reiterate that this multi-faceted issue requires a long-term strategic approach that includes:

  • improved engagement with groups that are under-represented in the domestic agricultural labour force
  • amendments to Canada's immigration policy
  • ways to make Canada's skills training programs more supportive of farms and on-the-job training.

CFA looks forward to obtaining more details of the new requirements for employers to advertise job opportunities to under-represented groups. Connecting with these communities is a priority for the industry and CFA is working with other stakeholders to address current barriers that confront those interested in working in the sector.

Interested parties are encouraged to refer to the Agriculture and Agri-food Workforce Action Plan, developed by a Labour Task Force involving more than 75 organizations, as a roadmap to improving Canada's agricultural labour market.

December 6, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, shares the Canadian Horticultural Council’s (CHC) concern over France’s ban of products from countries where dimethoate is registered as a pesticide.

Dimethoate is used for control of sucking and chewing insects and fruit flies, and is currently used in orchards after harvest for control of western cherry fruit flies. READ MORE

December 5, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – Canada’s agriculture sector faces a persistent lack of sufficient workers with the right skills and in the right places.

Labour shortages have doubled over the last decade and are projected to double again to 113,800 positions before 2025, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report. This report relies on research findings from a three-year agriculture labour market research project conducted by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) in collaboration with the Conference Board.

“The agriculture sector is having difficulty recruiting and retaining domestic workers. As labour shortages have expanded, the sector has increasingly turned to temporary foreign workers to fill the labour gap,” said Michael Burt, director of industrial economic trends with the Conference Board of Canada. “Finding solutions to the labour shortages in the years to come is critical for the future growth of the sector.”

The report – Sowing the Seeds of Growth: Temporary Foreign Workers in Agriculture – examines why temporary foreign workers (TFWs) play such an important role in the agriculture sector’s workforce. It finds that the industry faces unique recruitment and retention challenges that are contributing to its growing labour shortages. These challenges include an aging workforce, the rural location of many operations, and negative perceptions about working in the sector.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Labour shortages within Canada’s agriculture sector have doubled over the past decade and are expected to double again by 2025.
  • At its seasonal peak, the sector needs about 100,000 more workers than at seasonal lows.
  • Three-quarters of the sector’s labour gap has been filled by temporary foreign workers.

The most prominent challenge is the large seasonal fluctuations in employment. At its seasonal peak, the agriculture sector needs about 100,000 more workers than at its seasonal lows, which represents a 30 per cent fluctuation. The average difference between the seasonal peak and low in employment for all other sectors is just four per cent. These seasonal fluctuations are why more than three quarters of agricultural TFWs arrive as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

TFWs have become a key part of the sector’s continued operations and will likely continue to play a growing role in the future. TFWs have been able to fill three-quarters of the industry’s labour shortage gap and now represent one-in-10 workers in the sector. In addition to easing much of the sector’s labour shortages, TFWs have contributed to the growth in agricultural production over the past decade and have supported the employment of Canadians in the sector. Many farm operators indicate that they would have closed, leading to Canadian job losses, had they not had access to TFWs.

Finding solutions to the sector’s growing labour gap in the years to come is important. However, just paying more or buying more machines are not the panacea they would seem. For example, wages in agriculture have risen relative to the average for all sectors over the past 15 years, but the number of Canadians willing to work in agriculture has shrunk. At the same time, a dramatic increase in the amount of machinery employed per worker has contributed to agriculture experiencing the strongest labour productivity gains of any major sector over the past 20 years. Yet, the sector’s labour gap has continued to expand.

One potential solution may be re-evaluating the effectiveness of Canada’s immigration programs so that they better meet the needs of the agriculture sector. With federal immigration policies geared toward attracting high-skilled workers, they offer few pathways for permanent residency for lower-skilled workers, even though agriculture has a critical need for them. A path toward permanent residency for migrant workers, who are filling a permanent market need, would assist farm operators in finding a permanent solution to their labour challenges.

This research was funded by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC).

The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is receiving a $920,000 federal investment from the federal government to develop new disease-resistant apple and greenhouse tomato varieties that will contribute to the long-term growth and profitability of these two sectors.

October 31, 2016, Brussels, Belgium – The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) applauded the Government of Canada for recently signing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union (EU).

In an official ceremony, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Comission Jean-Claude Juncker and Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico for the Slovakia's Presidency of the Council of the EU signed the CETA deal, after seven years of negotiations. The official signing means the complete text may begin the ratification process through the Canadian Parliament and the legislatures of the 28 member countries of the EU and cannot be amended.

"Seeing Canada's largest trade agreement since NAFTA get signed is a bright light for agri-food exporters," said Brian Innes, CAFTA president. "Better access to the EU will help us grow our exports, driving growth here in Canada."

Eliminating barriers to trade through the CETA will allow Canada to capture more value from agri-food exports to the EU. Canada exported $2.6 billion in agriculture and food products to the EU in 2014. When the CETA is fully implemented, it will eliminate EU tariffs on almost 94 per cent of Canada's agri-food products. The agreement could drive additional exports of up to $1.5 billion, including $600 million in beef, $400 million in pork, $100 million in grains and oilseeds, $100 million in sugar containing products and a further $300 million in processed foods, fruits and vegetables.

Over the last 10 years in Canada, agriculture and agrifood exports have grown by 103 per cent, from $30 billion to over $61 billion – boosting farm cash receipts by 61 per cent over the same 2005-2015 period.

"We believe free trade deals like CETA are required for Canada's export oriented agri-food sector to thrive," said Innes. "CETA provides the framework to access one of the world's few multibillion-dollar export markets, and importantly, it does so ahead of our major competitors."

One remaining concern is the slow progress the EU is making to resolve technical issues that will allow agri-food exporters to have commercially viable access to the EU. CAFTA encourages government officials to resolve outstanding technical issues while the necessary legal and political processes are completed.

CAFTA Executive Director Claire Citeau was present for the signing ceremony and was accompanied earlier this week in Brussels by Doug Sawyer of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

CAFTA and its members have attended multiple rounds of negotiations and look forward to working closely with government officials on successfully implementing this deal so that commercially viable access is achieved.

July 28, 2016 – Statistics Canada reported that potato farmers in Canada planted 342,602 acres (138 647 hectares) of potatoes in 2016.

This is down 1.8 per cent from 2015, continuing the overall downward trend of the past 12 years. READ MORE

July 20, 2016 - From its founding in 1961, Highline Mushrooms has flourished to become the largest mushroom grower in Canada with four Ontario growing facilities. Part of that success is attributed to approximately 70 per cent of its employees being new Canadians who stay an average of eight years, with some remaining with the company for 20 – 30 years.

This labour success is not an accident, nor left to chance; rather, it is carefully orchestrated.

“For many immigrants, Highline is their first or second job in Canada,” explains Susan McBride Friesen, director of human resources of Highline Mushrooms from their head office in Leamington, Ont. “Providing employment to new Canadians helps them to establish Canadian roots, learn new skills – including English as a second language – and become a part of the Highline family.  We find that new comers to Canada often have farming connections in their home land, with a closer relationship with the land.  Providing them an opportunity to grow and learn has produced generations of leaders within our organization.” 

The Highline Mushrooms recruitment process caught the attention of the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) as it strives to alleviate the chronic labour shortage facing Canadian agriculture through its Labour Market Information (LMI) research. CAHRC recently released research indicating that annual farm cash receipt losses to Canadian producers due to job vacancies are $1.5 billion or three per cent of the industry’s total value in sales and production. The current gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce is 59,000 and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs.

“There is no one answer to the agricultural labour shortage in Canada,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC. “New Canadians have long been an under-represented group within the Canadian workforce. Highline Mushrooms is a great example of innovative labour solutions and their recruitment and training process is a model for success that CARHC is sharing so that others may benefit.”

Highline’s approach to labour identifies several key aspects including recruitment, overcoming transportation barriers, overcoming language barriers, new hire orientation, supervisory and leadership development, effective HR practices and key success factors.

Recruitment is achieved by approaching local immigrant settlement agencies and offering meaningful work at a fair wage. Associates within the immigrant settlement agencies are brought to the farm facilities and perform the work themselves to be better able to communicate and match immigrants’ skills with Highline job requirements. Highline also holds regular job fairs in partnership with the immigrant settlement agencies and all jobs are available - not just harvesting. This may include maintenance and labour, skilled trades, operating farm equipment, supervisory and accounting jobs, among others.

Overcoming transportation barriers is difficult as many employees must travel from urban centres - typically about a 40 minute commute - and there is no public transportation. In 2006, Highline introduced a ‘travel pay policy’ where employees are paid $6.35 per day for travel providing they arrive at work on time. This has worked well and encourages carpooling however is still difficult for new employees who don’t yet know anyone working at the farm.

Language and literacy barriers are overcome by Highline providing second language training on site, after work, two days per week. The company pays all costs associated with the language training and supports employees with time off work as needed to attend classes. Further, Highline translates important communications into the major languages used by the workers, such as health and safety material and the bi-weekly corporate newsletter. Also, photos without text are used when possible for training purposes.

New hire orientation consists of recruits getting two days of instruction held both in class and on the floor, to provide opportunities for questions and learning. This way, when the recruit returns for their first day of paid work they have met with the supervisor and are familiar with the scope of work. The harvesters have a formal 6-8 week training program; otherwise there is an informal buddy system where someone of similar community or background is paired with a new recruit to help him or her learn the finer points of their job.

Supervisory and leadership development within management is achieved through leadership training with an organizational psychologist to cover issues such as conflict resolution and change management along with support through regular meetings with the HR team.

Effective HR practices implemented at Highline have proven to have big returns. Their Values in Action Program encourages employees to uphold Highline Mushrooms’ values of: Excellence, Care, Respect, Effort, Integrity, Openness and Fairness. Employees who demonstrate these values at work and in the community are rewarded with having their names entered into a monthly draw for various prizes.

Key success factors for the employment of immigrants at Highline have been summarized as:

  • Make full use of the services offered by community job partners.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with job partners to identify areas that need improvement and be willing to work together to find solutions.
  • Make your business attractive to new Canadians by providing meaningful work at fair pay.
  • Make efforts to communicate with new Canadians so they feel comfortable in the workplace.
  • Make communications available in the languages of the immigrants.
  • Ensure that good recruitment processes are in place so the employment experience can succeed.
  • Front line supervisors must be patient, flexible and have the communications skills to be able to explain things in more than one way to ensure the new employee understands what to do.

Highline Mushrooms is just one of many case studies being done as part of CAHRC’s LMI research into reducing barriers to agricultural employment for new Canadians. For more information on CAHRC’s LMI project visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca. The LMI research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council works with industry leaders, governments and educational stakeholders to research, develop and communicate solutions to the challenges in employment and skills development in primary agriculture. The Council now leads collaborative implementation efforts in support of the national Workforce Action Plan for the agriculture and agri-food sector. For more information visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca

July 8, 2016, Kentville, NS – The federal government recently announced $400,000 in funding to support a wine grape research program at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Kentville Research and Development Centre.

The program will help Nova Scotia’s wine industry grow with new information about varieties, growing techniques, and processing that will help grape growers and wineries take full advantage of the region’s unique microclimates and land.

“Nova Scotia is quickly establishing an international reputation for wines, as are many regions across Canada,” said Lawrence MacAulay, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “This research will identify new opportunities for growth and increase demand for Nova Scotian and Canadian wines.”

Three new federal scientists will be hired to complement existing research at the centre as part of a program that will include a two-acre vineyard to evaluate grape varieties.

Kentville researchers will collaborate with the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Department at Brock University, and will work closely with the Winery Association of Nova Scotia, the Grape Growers of Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and local academic institutions to share best practices in the grape wine industry.

Scientists will work directly with grape growers and vintners to map every vineyard in Nova Scotia and record the unique characteristics of the province’s microclimates and terroirs and the production and management practices at each location.

Washington, DC, April 21, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture will buy up to 30 million pounds of wild blueberries to help with flagging prices and over-supply.

Members of Maine's congressional delegation said the agency will pay up to $13 million for the blueberries. READ MORE

March 22, 2016, Toronto, Ont – Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have approved a genetically engineered potato for sale, said a U.S.-based company.

J.R. Simplot Company also announced its non-browning spuds could be in Canadian supermarkets by Thanksgiving.

The company was notified by both agencies in letters dated March 18 that it could sell its potatoes – which purportedly are less likely to bruise or turn brown when cut – to consumers or for livestock consumption. READ MORE

Mar. 15, 2016, Ottawa, ON - Annual farm cash receipt losses to Canadian producers due to job vacancies are $1.5 B or three per cent of the industry's total value in sales and production.

This is a key finding of newly released Labour Market Information (LMI) research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) during the 'Growing the AgriWorkforce Summit' in Winnipeg. The LMI research also revealed that primary agriculture still has the highest industry job vacancy rate at 7 per cent. The research was based on 2014 figures.

"The situation is critical now and will only get worse unless it is effectively addressed," explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, CAHRC Executive Director. "The Council has established the necessary collaborative channels with government and industry and now we need to continue to move forward to find solutions."

The current gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce is 59,000 and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. In response, industry efforts have been encouraging young people and workers from other sectors to get into agriculture as a career. Despite extensive efforts gaps still exist and there still will be a large void in the future.

Labour shortages create risks to farmers who can only hope they will have the same or greater access to both domestic and foreign workers in the future as they do now. The LMI study examined only primary production; agri-food industries such as food and beverage processors or input suppliers, which have additional labour demands, were not considered in the research. However, labour shortages affect both primary producers and food processors in Canada.

Effects of the projected gap in the agricultural workforce could extend beyond the farms and fields and into Canadian homes. Unfilled jobs in Canadian food processing plants force Canadian foods to be processed outside of Canada in places like the United States and Mexico where there are workers. This means Canada must import the food back in after processing, which adds to food costs for Canadians. These two factors together could have a significant impact on Canada's ability to produce and process its own food.

The research indicates that the worker shortage is critical today and will be even more so ten years from now, with dire consequences for business viability, industry sustainability and future growth. Access to less labour for Canadian farmers now and into the future will affect food security for Canadian consumers and will also affect export potential of Canada's entire agri-food industry.

The LMI research was derived from surveys, interviews and focus groups with 1034 representatives of Canadian agricultural organizations, employees, and employers – 813 of whom were primary producers.

More information on this and other LMI results can be found at www.cahrc-ccrha.ca. The LMI research was funded by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Initiatives Program.

 

March 9, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – Federal officials recently announced that the European Union (EU) has voted in favor of expanding the current scope of the Canada-EU Organic Equivalency Arrangement.

Canadian certified organic processed products that include imported ingredients will now also be covered by the arrangement and will no longer require costly and time-consuming double certification. The expanded scope of the arrangement will also include mutual recognition of EU and Canadian organic wine standards as being equivalent.

“This is long-awaited and exciting news for our sector,” said Dag Falck, president of the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA). “Strengthening Canada’s export opportunities with EU countries just took a strong step forward with recognition of Canadian Organic Regime (COR) certified organic products with ingredients from all approved suppliers.”

Some administrative steps remain before the amended EU regulation comes into force. It is anticipated the regulation will be published in the EU Official Journal by the end of March 2016. The EU regulation enters into force seven days after its official publication, at which time the revised Canada-EU Equivalency Arrangement will also come into force.

The Canadian Organic Trade Association estimates the EU market for organic products to be worth approximately 23.9 billion Euros and is the second largest organic market in the world.

Fire blight damage on an apple tree

January 27, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – The federal and Nova Scotia governments recently announced an initiative to help Nova Scotia tree fruit growers recoup the cost of managing fire blight.

The Fire Blight Initiative will provide up to $2.69 million to assist Nova Scotia’s tree fruit growers with an industry-led strategy to bring fire blight under control and minimize the potential for damage in the future.

“On behalf of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the federal and provincial governments for approving this AgriRecovery support program,” said Andrew Parker, president of the NSFGA. “This will help the Nova Scotia apple industry reinvest money to continue to produce high-value fruit and capitalize on the strong export market the industry has developed.”

Post-tropical storm Arthur caused significant damage to Nova Scotia apple and pear orchards in 2014, resulting in a province-wide outbreak of fire blight affecting 95 per cent of orchards.

This initiative is being delivered under the AgriRecovery Framework, which allows governments to respond to unforeseen natural disasters that result in extraordinary costs for producers.

Information on how to apply will be available in the coming days from AgPal and through the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture.

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