Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, has launched consultations to solicit input and inform a National Agricultural Labour Strategy.

Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector is an important engine of economic growth that feeds millions of people in Canada and around the world. It is also part of the country's critical infrastructure, essential to the health and well-being of all Canadians, stated an Agriculture and Agri-Food media release.

In 2020, the country' whole agriculture and agri-food system employed 2.1 million people, provided 1 in 9 jobs in Canada in 2021, and generated $135 billion of Canada's gross domestic product (GDP). 

"However, the sector expriences high job-vacancy rates. We desperately need workers - skilled and unskilled workers," said Minister Bibeau. 

It is estimated that by 2029, the sector will have 123,000 more jobs than the domestic labour force can fill.

"These shortages will significanly impact the sector's potential limiting its economic growth, affecting rural vitality and diminishing our capacity to feed Canadians and the World," added the Minister. "Innovation in terms of technology, of course, and also management are critical to sustainable growth and our government wants to ease the business environment to help our farmers and entrepreneurs take on the challenge and thrive."

"Canada's agricultural sector feeds millions of people each year, and is a huge driver of our national economy. To ensure it can continue to grow and innovate, we're working with industry partners to build the strong, skilled workforce they need to thrive," added The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

This consultation process will seek input on recommendations to address chronic workforce challenges to build short- and long-term solutions that enable the agriculture sector to attract a skilled workforce. Provinces and territories, as well as employers, unions, underrepresented groups, workers, and other key groups will be engaged to develop the strategy and ensure it reflects the unique needs of the sector.

A number of areas of focus have been identified, including the use of automation and technology, targeted skills development and training, employment incentives and best practices, improved working conditions and benefits; and programs to recruit and retain workers.

The Strategy will build on initiatives already in place such as the Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council-led development of a National Workforce Strategic Plan for Agriculture and Food and Beverage Manufacturing. The Government of Canada's National Agricultural Labour Strategy is intended to complement these efforts and utilize input directly from industry to achieve solutions.

"We at CFA are excited for the launch of these consultations, as they will be coordinating closely with the CAHRC National Agriculture, Food and Beverage Manufacturing Workforce strategy co-chaired by CFA and Food and Beverage Canada. These consultations, along with the development of our Workforce Strategy will create pragmatic solutions for short and long-term labour issues in the food supply chain," said Mary Robinson, President of Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

"CAHRC is pleased for the launch of these timely consultations on a sector-specific Agricultural Labour Strategy. We look forward to working closely and collaboratively with AAFC and our partners CFA and Food and Beverage Canada on our complimentary initiatives that will go a long way towards finding long-term solutions for a robust, skilled workforce," added Paul Glenn, Chair, Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

"Food and Beverage Canada welcomes the launch today of consultations to develop a sector-specific labour strategy to address labour shortages in food and beverage manufacturing, as well as in agricutlure. With our partners at CAHRC and CFA, we look forward to continuing our work on the National Workforce Strategic Plan for Agriculture and Food and Beverage Manufacturing, which will help to inform these important consultations as we seek to develop a roadmap to address persistent labour shortages in the agri-food sector," said Kathleen Sullivan, CEO, Food and Beverage Canada.

An online consultation opened on June 27, 2022 and will run until September 28, 2022.