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, bring product to market and run effective businesses – this creates an opportunity to increase revenues and grow markets.
The Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council (CAHRC) conducted studies across Canadian farms and the agriculture industry to identify the labour gaps and associated costs. The reports analyzed the needs, barriers and opportunities for each of the provinces. The Nova Scotia report discovered in 2017, (6585) people were employed in agriculture and 29% of those were made up of foreign workforce. With that, there were 251 jobs left unfilled which lead to an estimated $33 million in lost sales due to labour shortages. The report projected that in 2027 there will be 7,190 workers required in the agriculture industry. Between 2017 and 2027, CAHRC anticipated 43% of the workforce will be lost to retirement, creating a labour gap of more than 2,600 people.
Foreign labour is an avenue that many farms access to meet labour requirements. Programs like the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and the Temporary Foreign Worker (both Agriculture and Low-Wage Stream) are examples of two federal programs that farms can access to recruit foreign labour on the farm. Farms employing both foreign and domestic workers face a significant amount of regulatory burden. Different legislation applying to two groups of employees may lead to one group being treated unfairly compared to the other, and farmers requiring multiple systems to track employee time (breaks, days off, etc.). Clear understanding of legislation and contracts, and improvements to the federal programs will help farmers address the labour gap on the farm.
It shall be the policy of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture to work with necessary organizations and government departments at both the Federal and Provincial levels to address the labour and skills gaps with domestic and foreign labour and legislative burdens in Nova Scotia’s Agriculture Industry. In doing this, NSFA, with funding under the Agriculture Sector Council Program, will address HR, recruitment/retention and skills training to benefit Nova Scotia farms and farmers.