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Canada’s agriculture sector needs temporary foreign workers


March 18, 2020
By Top Crop Manager

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The Western Canadian Wheat Growers (WCWG) have issued a statement calling on Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, to present their concerns about the effects of the border closure on temporary foreign workers (TFWs) to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Cabinet Committee.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has also issued a statement echoing their appreciation of the federal government’s swift action regarding COVID-19 containment, but that measures need to be taken to address Canada’s food supply and food security if the arrival of TFWs is delayed or stopped.

WCWG states that Canada needs an estimated 60,000 TFWs in the agriculture sector, and over 1,400 specifically for oilseed and grain farming. Beyond the risk to Canada’s food value chain created by the potential loss of TFWs in agriculture more broadly, most of the TFWs hired for grain farming bring expertise and experience that is in short supply in rural areas.

“All the same self-isolation measures should continue to be in place for any TFW coming into the country, similar to any Canadian that is returning to Canada,” said Kenton Possberg, Saskatchewan WCWG director, in the statement. “The challenge is that many remote grain farms cannot operate without temporary foreign workers as a part of their crew. The importance of our food value chain cannot be underestimated for both our domestic and international markets.”

With seeding season just around the corner, farmers can’t afford the delays or setbacks that the loss of TFWs would create. It is hoped that a speedy resolution that respects the potential risks of the global pandemic can be reached soon.