Skilled labour is critical to any farm operation. Trained employees increase farm productivity and efficiency. Additionally, with sufficient labour, farms are able to add value to their products which creates an opportunity to increase revenues and grow markets.
The Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council (CAHRC) conducted a study across Canadian farms and the agriculture industry to identify the gaps and associated costs. The report analyzed the needs, barriers and opportunities for each of the provinces. The Nova Scotia report discovered in 2014, 9,200 people were employed in agriculture and 15% of those were made up of foreign workforce. With that, there were 500 jobs left unfilled which lead to $15 million in lost sales due to labour shortages. The report projected that in 2025 there will be 11,300 workers required in the agriculture industry. Between 2014 and 2025, CAHRC anticipated 29% of the workforce will be lost to retirement, creating a labour gap of 3500 people.
Foreign labour is an avenue that many farms access to meet labour requirements. The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and the Temporary Foreign Worker – Agriculture Stream are two federal programs that farms can utilize to access foreign labour workforce. General concerns with these programs include Nova Scotia being a less appealing province to work in since the province has a lower minimum wage than other provinces like Ontario, concerns around paying a fee for processing applications, impracticality of advertising position far in advance of start date, translation services for workers, multiple year applications and standardized housing inspections. Improvements to these programs will help farmers address the labour gap on the farm.
It shall be the policy of Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture to partake in consultations and work with industry stakeholders and organizations to identify changes that need to be made for the foreign worker programs. The Federation will also work with appropriate bodies to ensure training and other translative supports are available for foreign workers. NSFA will also work with stakeholders to ensure that programs to hire local labour are well communicated and accessible to farmers.