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Funding available for projects to address ag labour challenges in Ontario


October 26, 2021
By Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing up to $1.5 million through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to address agri-food labour challenges and build a strong and resilient labour force.

Starting on Oct. 21, a new intake is open to support industry-led projects that promote and attract jobseekers to careers in the agri-food sector, help them gain the skills and training needed to build a successful career, and ensure Ontario’s food supply chain is protected.

“Labour challenges continue to be one of the leading bottlenecks to growth in our agriculture sector,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food. “At the same time, there are countless quality and dynamic job opportunities for Canadians looking for rewarding careers. This cost-shared funding for employee attraction, training and retention helps bridge that divide between employable Canadians and labour shortages, and is vital to ensure the long-term prosperity of the sector.”

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The new intake will fund efforts to address the ongoing labour shortage that has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) stated that 16,500 agricultural jobs went unfilled in 2017 across Canada, with the shortfall expected to grow to 123,000 by 2029. Ontario is expected to represent the largest share of the shortfall.

“Investing in a strong workforce for the agri-food sector is vital to our economy and our rural communities,” said Lisa Thompson, Ontario minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “We want to attract and train people interested in building a successful career in an increasingly high-tech agriculture industry to take advantage of these opportunities. This initiative will do just that and will help position the sector for long-term growth.”

Projects may be eligible for up to 70 per cent funding of eligible expenses (to a maximum of $250,000). Eligible projects will have to be completed by Sept. 30, 2022, and involve:

  • Implementing new, enhanced or expanded approaches to attract and retain labour;
  • Planning, analyzing and assessing labour force needs;
  • Implementing training to address identified workforce needs, including training to improve food safety and traceability, labour productivity or tech-focused skills gap.

“For the past 19 months, Ontario’s agriculture workers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping food on tables in communities across the province,” said Monte McNaughton, Ontario minister of labour, training and skills development. “Careers in agri-food provide people with rewarding, well-paying jobs, but there are not enough workers available. That is why our government is taking steps to ensure employers have access to the talent they need to grow their businesses.

“Labour is the number-one issue right now for our sector. This investment helps address agri-food labour challenges and build a strong and resilient labour force. In partnership with government, we share in the common goal of connecting jobseekers with exciting career opportunities,” said Chris Conway, CEO of Food and Beverage Ontario.