Canadian Agricultural HR Council hosts collaboration of industry and gov’t on ag labour shortage

Feb 12, 2016

Ottawa, ON – On February 9, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Labour Task Force (LTF) and Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) partners were joined by officials from four federal departments to discuss critical labour shortages in agriculture and its effect on industry growth.

The meeting was part of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan (WAP) designed to address issues, impacts and solutions related to the pervasive labour shortages facing the Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry. The meeting was an unprecedented collaboration of representatives from the 67 WAP partners along with officials from Employment and Social Development Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Statistics Canada.

“The Council believes that the best way to address the labour shortages in primary agriculture and agri-food processing is through collaboration,“ explained Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, CAHRC Executive Director. “We had a clear willingness among all parties to talk and work together to find solutions. The Council is very pleased with today’s outcomes and will continue to work diligently to find solutions.”

The meeting opened with a virtual farm tour of more than a dozen farm and ranch operations from across Canada. Each producer-speaker explained their commodity-specific issues arising from labour shortages, the economic repercussions it is having on their business and the long-term damage it will cause to the future health of the industry and Canada’s economy. 

“The virtual farm tour was an important component of today’s meeting because most of our government colleagues are not familiar with the day-to-day demands of the agricultural and agri-food industry and the impacts worker shortages have on businesses in this sector. The session helped them get a better idea of what we are talking about, why it matters, and how their department can help,” explained Mark Chambers, Co-chair of the LTF.

Highlights of the meeting included an update on the foundational research and recruitment activities being conducted by CAHRC with industry partners – including reaching out to new Canadians and incoming refugees. Concerns were raised about the need to ensure a strong and stable workforce for the industry in order to ensure a stable supply of food products for the Canadian and world markets. With pervasive shortages being experienced throughout Canada, industry representatives stressed the need for support from international workers. Discussions turned to the need to streamline the permanent residency process for foreign workers who are willing and skilled at agricultural and agri-food labour. The meeting concluded with an overview of the Workforce Action Plan.

In follow-up, the government officials have been invited to join producers and the agri-food industry at the CAHRC-hosted “Growing the AgriWorkforce’ summit, March 14 – 16 in Winnipeg where the latest labour market information about the sector will be released and the industry’s future viability and success will be discussed. Additionally, farm tours for civil servants are being planned by CAHRC and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to help develop greater understanding and awareness of agricultural issues, particularly related to labour.

“Before a problem can be fixed, it has to be understood,” said Mark Wales, Co-chair of the LTF. “We have now facilitated a connection between industry and a network of the people who can make meaningful changes to address the agriculture and agri-food labour shortage issue. Government understanding and support of WAP is a key component to its successful implementation. This meeting has been an important step toward finding solutions.”

For more information on the Workforce Action Plan visit .

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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

For more information contact:
Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, Executive Director, CAHRC, T: 613-745-7457 ext. 222 E:

Janet Krayden, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist, CARHC, T: 613-745-7457 ext. 226 E:

Theresa Whalen, Communications & Marketing Specialist, CAHRC, T: 613-745-7457 ext. 223 C: 613-325-7321 E: