Chronic labour shortages put Canada's food security at risk

Policies that support agriculture needed
calendar icon 13 November 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

Labour shortages have been negatively impacting Canadian agri-businesses, with nearly three-quarters (74%) of agri-business owners working more hours to make up for the lack of staff, according to a new report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Nearly half (48%) of agri-businesses have had to turn down sales or contracts due to labour shortages, while 41% have had to decrease service offerings.

To ensure the future of the industry, CFIB is urging policymakers to address chronic labour shortages in agriculture by focusing on the underlying issues exacerbating the problem.

"We need policies that will support our farmers and agri-businesses to ensure the agriculture sector is competitive and productive and the current shortages of labour are prioritized. In a recent survey we found that almost two-thirds (61%) of agri-business owners turned to their existing employees to work more hours due to lack of staff," said Jasmin Guenette, Vice-President of National Affairs at CFIB. "The prevailing labour shortages in agriculture must be addressed. It limits productivity and growth and is putting Canada's food supply at risk."

In addition to labour shortages, Canadian agri-businesses have also been facing many other challenges. A vast majority (94%) of agri-businesses said the rising prices of inputs have impacted their business. Supply chain challenges are also causing difficulties for 83% of agri-businesses.

CFIB's Business Barometer also shows that those in the agriculture sector have been the least optimistic about the future of their business for six consecutive months.

"Four in five agri-businesses say they would not advise someone to start a business because of labour shortages. This is concerning given the retiring population and lack of youth turning to agriculture for a career. We need to ensure agriculture is a viable career path for the next generation of farmers and agri-business professionals," said Taylor Brown, Senior Policy Analyst at CFIB.

As Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) works on addressing chronic labour shortages in agriculture, CFIB urged policymakers to help agri-businesses by reducing the total tax burden on agri-businesses, including payroll taxes and the federal carbon tax. CFIB would also like AAFC to streamline and simplify the Temporary Foreign Worker and immigration processes and programs to get more workers into Canada faster. Finally, the association would like AAFC to provide tax relief for the hiring of older workers and other underrepresented groups, and stimulate automation in agri-businesses through programs or tax credits.

    Melanie Epp

    Melanie Epp is a freelance agricultural journalist from Ontario, Canada.

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