The labour shortage in Canada's agri-food sector continues to grow, and business owners are struggling to keep up. One way they are solving this problem is by sourcing talent from abroad. To bring these workers to Canada, employers use federal temporary foreign worker programs.
Although these programs have helped farmers meet their short-term needs, the employees often struggle to transition to permanent residence. This is about to change.
In July, the federal government released highlights of a new three-year Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program to help workers transition from temporary worker status to permanent residence. The program will support workers in meat processing, mushroom production, greenhouse crop production, and livestock raising.
Candidates with at least one year of full-time Canadian work experience in these sectors, with moderate English skills, a high school education, and a full-time job offer will be eligible for the program. The program's quota is 2,750 applicants per year, plus their family members. Additional program details will be released in early 2020.
“We are cautiously optimistic that the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program will proceed as planned, irrespective of election results in October”, says Doreen Buksner, Senior Manager of Immigration Services at BDO Canada.
“This is a step in the right direction”, says Buksner. “It's a great opportunity to support Canada's agri-food industry, and recognize the value agri-food workers provide to the Canadian economy and the country's thriving agricultural industry.”
"This is a step in the right direction. It's a great opportunity to support Canada's agri-food industry, and recognize the value agri-food workers provide to the Canadian economy and the country's thriving agricultural industry."
BDO has a team of specialists who help agri-food and other business owners navigate the various foreign worker programs to achieve their talent acquisition and retention goals.
According to a study by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council, approximately 75% of the labour gap in agriculture is filled by temporary foreign workers. For seasonal businesses, Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is a quick solution to fill short-term positions and meet busy-season needs. However, the SAWP is limited to workers from Mexico and select Caribbean countries, and there is a duration cap of eight months per year.
For year-round livestock raising and meat production and processing, operators are relying on an alternative program known as the Agriculture Stream. This is a more flexible option, as it is open to workers from any country and allows them to remain in Canada year-round. Workers under this stream can remain for up to two years at a time, with the opportunity to extend for another two years.
Some provincial programs already help foreign workers in agriculture achieve permanent residence, but these programs have long processing times and low quotas, or they focus on farm managers rather than workers.
For more on the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program, reach out to our Immigration Services team