Agriculture industry facing challenges in finding workers

Even though the numbers are better than other agriculture sector, such as market gardens and livestock operations, grain and oilseed farms still have challenges filling labour and manager positions.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) conducted an extensive survey of 1,316 employers, 278 workers and 110 industry stakeholders.

The CAHRC estimates grain and oilseed farms provided employment for 38,750 people, but that was 2,000 short of the actual need. Part of the issue is a tight supply of qualified Canadian applicants.

“Almost half of grain and oilseed employers indicated that they had no Canadians apply for their jobs,” said Debra Hauer, manager of labour market information with the CAHRC.

Some have turned to other countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

“People who have experience in driving larger machinery on farms in those countries can come here,” Hauer said. “There are about 1,000 young people every year from other countries who come to work in agriculture for that reason.”

The survey indicates 65 percent of farm owners blamed production delays on labour shortages and 48 percent said they caused lost production.

“About one-third of producers experiencing labour shortages indicate they are delaying or cancelling expansion plans,” Hauer said. “It not only means that there are issues today, but there many be constraints for future growth.”

The CAHRC also issued a farm labour forecast for 2029. It estimates one in four jobs could go unfilled due to a lack of available workers. The main reason will be an aging demographic as 39 percent of the current workforce retires over the next decade.

Hauer says the projections are only an estimate because new technology, such as autonomous equipment, could come into play.

“Will it mean that farms will get bigger? Does it mean that there will be fewer farm business owners and more employees? Will there be more increased technology than we can even imagine at this time?”

To address labor issues, CAHRC has developed agriculture-specific human resource tools designed to support modern farm operators in managing their workforce.


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