Several agriculture groups in Canada are pleading with the federal government to allow more producers to hire foreign workers for their farms.
In a report by the Castanet website, Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan said “There are some jobs that we can’t get Canadians to do. Having enough employees to get the job done in a timely matter makes more money for agriculture.”
Currently, the federal Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program allows at least 20,000 temporary foreign farm workers to be hired in the country for up to 8 months each year in industries such as fruit, livestock tobacco, and vegetable sectors. This program is open to farm workers from Mexico and other Caribbean countries.
Hall’s group along with other concerned organizations like the Union des Producteurs Agricoles are hoping that Ottawa will consider expanding the program to include other industries such as grain, maple syrup, and oilseeds. Hall pointed out that there is a shortage of farmers since old workers are retiring while younger rural residents are seeking jobs in other areas.
To meet the demand for production expansion, more farmers are needed.
“There are just not enough farm boys left,” Hall explained. “It would mean getting the crop in on time, getting it sprayed in time and then getting it harvested on time.”
Under the program, foreign farm workers have duties such as operating farm machineries, looking after animals, planting, and harvesting. They are also allowed the option to come back to the country year after year until they reach the cumulative limit of 48 months.
With the help of several farm groups, Hall is passing a resolution to remove the 48-month limit. They are also hoping to make it easier for foreign seasonal workers to apply and change employers, whenever necessary.
“We are hoping that the minister and the bureaucracy will look on this favorably and enact as much of it as possible,” Hall declared.
Chris Ramsaroop, organizer of Justicia for Migrant Workers, added “With an expanding agricultural industry there must be a correlating focus of better working and living conditions for farm workers… We demand that migrant farm workers must have access to permanent residency and should be employed with dignity and respect and not treated as disposable labor.”