What We Heard Report - Agricultural Labour Strategy

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May 18, 2023

Message from the Minister

I am pleased to present this What We Heard Report, which details feedback received during consultations on the development of a National Agricultural Labour Strategy. The agriculture and agri-food sector is incredibly important to the Canadian economy, generating $65.1 billion of Canada's gross domestic product and employing over half a million people across various skill levels, and supporting the broader food supply chain. Securing the workforce necessary for the needs of today and tomorrow is crucial to food security as well as growing our economy in a sustainable way, and that is why now is the time to act. The sector requires a reliable and sustainable agricultural workforce and innovative technological solutions for the labour challenges of today and the future.

A longstanding challenge to this sector and the food supply chain is chronic labour shortages that hinder the productivity of agricultural and processing operations, resulting in lost economic potential, and creating stress for employers and workers alike. Like many advanced economies, Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector relies heavily on international labour, with job vacancies remaining high. While COVID-19 exacerbated these challenges, chronic labour shortages in the sector predate the pandemic. That is why the Prime Minister mandated me to develop an Agricultural Labour Strategy to address chronic labour shortages in farming and food processing.

To help meet these objectives, I have consulted with my provincial and territorial counterparts, industry, organizations, unions, underrepresented and marginalized groups, other key stakeholders, and the Canadian public to learn their needs and views. This report offers highlights of what we heard so far during in-person and virtual consultations, through an online questionnaire, and written submissions.

It is important that we find solutions together to create the skilled agricultural workforce we need for Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector to remain a top provider of agriculture and agri-food products for Canada and the world. The feedback received during our consultation process will be key to developing an action-oriented Agricultural Labour Strategy that addresses the issues hindering agricultural operations and limiting growth.

I would like to thank everyone who has participated in the consultation process to date. Your input is important. The feedback and ideas you have provided will inform the actions to be taken under the Agricultural Labour Strategy. Engagement will continue throughout 2023, and on an ongoing basis after the Strategy is launched, to ensure the Strategy's efforts are responsive to the always evolving needs of the sector.

I am confident that together we can ensure the sector has the support it needs for a sustainable agricultural workforce.


The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, PC, MP


Executive Summary

This report offers a summary of what Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) heard during consultations with stakeholders on the development of the Agricultural Labour Strategy (AgLS). This process focused on the following themes:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Retention
  3. Skills
  4. Automation and Technology
  5. Capacity Building

Stakeholders provided input through: (1) online consultations via a questionnaire that was open from June 27 to September 28, 2022 (see Annex A); (2) a generic e-mail inbox that was open until December 31, 2022; (3) targeted engagement with partners, stakeholders, and underrepresented and marginalized groups; and (4) direct discussions with Provinces and Territories via AAFC's various Federal-Provincial-Territorial fora. To date, AAFC has received written submissions from over 68 individuals and industry groups, reviewed 218 completed online questionnaires, and engaged groups such as the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council and the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council.

Industry is taking leadership to address labour issues. Specifically, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), in partnership with Food & Beverage Canada (FBC) and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), is developing the National Workforce Strategic Plan (NWSP). To this end, the NWSP Steering Committee provided an interim report on their work — which was signed by 34 industry groups — as a submission as part of AAFC's consultation process. AAFC is directly engaged in the development of the NWSF, acting as an observer of the advisory committee and participating in several of the working and governance groups including: the Indigenous Agriculture Advisory Committee and the Automation and Skills Working Groups. Through this sustained engagement, both strategies remain aligned on wanting to take complementary and collaborative action on short, medium and long-term solutions to address labour shortages and systemic workforce challenges.

Current Labour Challenges

The consultation process helped identify key labour challenges faced by the sector and proposed a number of ideas to address the persistent labour challenges faced by the sector.

The main challenges that emerged were as follows:

  • Employers are unable to find the workers they need and are having difficulty attracting employees to the sector due to challenges such as rural location, type of work and wages;
  • Inability to retain domestic and foreign workers over the long-term;
  • Adopting more tailored approaches is required to attract and retain underrepresented and marginalized groups;
  • Critical need for human capital and difficulty ensuring employees have the skills and access to training needed to transition to the coming era of agriculture and agri-food characterized by sustainability, technology and innovation;
  • Need to facilitate the entry of the next generation of farmers into the sector;
  • Employees desire a stronger workplace culture so they feel valued and more connected to their work;
  • Lack of dedicated human resources capacity of small and medium sized enterprises;
  • There are many risks associated with adopting automation and labour-saving technologies needed to reduce the sector's reliance on manual labour;
  • The labour market information that exists is not consistent across sources, available in a timely manner, straightforward or easy to access; and
  • The importance of addressing the problem of labour shortages from multiple angles and perspectives.

Ideas to Address Challenges

Stakeholders suggested a variety of solutions to these challenges, including:

  • Improving wages and offering non-wage incentives such as increased benefits, opportunities for growth, and training and skills development;
  • Increasing education on the career opportunities that exist to enhance knowledge and change perceptions of the sector;
  • Providing more skills development and training opportunities;
  • Ensuring the voice of workers is included in all conversations; and
  • Creating mentorship programs for youth and underrepresented groups.

With regard to automation and technology, stakeholders suggested ideas to help improve rates of adoption, including:

  • Simplifying administrative requirements for government funding programs and widening their scope
  • Providing more access to capital; and
  • Showcasing successes of technology.

Finally, increased information sharing between industry and government could improve the sector's understanding of labour market information needed to make business and human resource decisions for their operations.

It is important to note that there are many solutions to the labour challenges the sector is facing and they are not one-size-fits-all. Different groups within the sector will require specific solutions for specific problems.

Next Steps

Targeted engagement will continue throughout 2023 as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada develops and refines options for the Strategy. Even after the Strategy is launched, engagement with partners and stakeholders will continue to ensure the Strategy tracks with the evolving needs of the workforce, and enables the agriculture and agri-food sector to grow in a sustainable manner. Continued and on-going engagement with Canadians and the sector is critical as the Government of Canada, with support from provincial and territorial governments, as well as industry, work together to action an Agricultural Labour Strategy.



To inform the development of the Agricultural Labour Strategy, AAFC launched consultations to engage with provincial and territorial governments, industry stakeholders and the wider Canadian public to solicit feedback on actions that would be most effective in addressing labour challenges faced by the sector. The purpose of these consultations was to develop a comprehensive picture on what challenges exists, as well as hear ideas on how they can be overcome. The feedback gained will be used to inform the development of an action-oriented Strategy that reflects the needs of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector.

Three principal engagement mechanisms were used for the consultations (more detailed information can be found in the annexes of this report):

  1. Online Consultations

    From June 27 to September 28, 2022, Canadians were invited to share their ideas to help guide the development of an Agricultural Labour Strategy via an online questionnaire on the AAFC website. 218 completed questionnaires were received from individuals, organizations, and associations.

  2. Targeted Consultations

    The Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Labour Task Team has been engaged on the development of the strategy since the Summer of 2022. Additionally, AAFC has met with various representative organizations and associations. Engagement with underrepresented and marginalized groups has included leveraging existing forums such as the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council, but also convening specific sessions such as a Women's Roundtable discussion on the margins of an agricultural conference.

  3. Comments Submitted to a Generic Inbox

    A generic inbox was created to accept written submissions and remained open until December 31, 2022. 42 submissions were received from organizations, associations and individuals.

Stakeholder feedback and suggestions captured through these forums provided valuable perspectives and information that will help to inform the Agricultural Labour Strategy. Discussions with provinces and territories are ongoing, including via Meetings of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Agriculture and the Labour Task Team. Targeted consultations will continue with unions, Indigenous and underrepresented groups, workers, and other key groups. AAFC is also directly engaged in the development of the National Workfroce Strategic Framework, presented by CAHRC, in partnership with FBC and CFA. There are representatives acting as observers of the advisory committee and participating in several of the working and governance groups including: the Indigenous Agriculture Advisory Committee and the Automation and Skills Working Groups. This report seeks to capture the essence of all the ideas that arose during the consultation period with key messages and suggestions highlighted throughout but, as it is a summary of engagement, does not include every comment received. The annexes offer more detailed information received through the various engagement mechanisms.


Current Labour Challenges

The challenge of labour shortages in the agriculture and agri-food sector has been long-standing, and many actions are already underway by the Government to improve the situation for both the sector and the broader economy. To inform a comprehensive approach to the consultation process, research and discussions with stakeholders identified five overarching labour issues faced by the sector:

  1. Recruitment;
  2. Retention;
  3. Skills and training;
  4. Automation and technology; and
  5. Capacity building.

These issue areas were used to guide the consultations to help ensure that specific, actionable feedback was provided. Under these challenge areas, a number of key themes emerged.


There was a clear recognition that the agriculture and agri-food sector faces specific challenges compared to other sectors given location and type of work. Finding ways to attract employees to the sector and ensuring that employers are able to find the workers they need is one of the top barriers to growth and productivity reported by the sector. Employers expressed that there were many barriers that affect recruitment, such as physicality of the work, wages, and rural location.

A key point made by some online questionnaire respondents was that regardless of the recruitment tactics used, the general lack of labour supply made recruiting a wasted effort, as many job postings received very few or no responses. For example, there are companies that have made significant efforts to offer signing bonuses, transportation, and other non-wage incentives to attract employees. However, one association noted they have employers that do offer competitive wages and benefits and were still experiencing difficulty recruiting workers. There were also examples of smaller companies that struggle to offer the high wages and benefits for which potential employees are asking. Overall, a number of recruitment challenges are due to factors outside of many employer's control, such as location of the job, hours required, and overall perceived attractiveness of the specific industry, a situation that does not appear to be unique, as it was noted by other respondents and stakeholders. On top of these challenges, 50% of online questionnaire respondents indicated that competition with other sectors is further affecting their ability to attract workers.

An additional challenge faced is recruiting a diverse workforce. Employers note that identifying barriers to participation and taking steps to address these issues is of key importance to attracting workers from diverse backgrounds into the agriculture sector. It was clear in the responses that many employers, specifically small and medium enterprises, did not have the human resources capacity necessary to develop comprehensive hiring plans that prioritized the recruitment of underrepresented groups to the sector. From the employee perspective, some employers are not taking concrete action to make diversity part of their culture and decision-making, leaving them feeling underappreciated or uninterested in pursuing opportunities in the sector. Many employees desire a stronger workplace culture that prioritizes diversity and inclusion so they can feel more connected to their work.

A challenge cited by women looking to enter and stay in the agricultural sector over the long-term was access to childcare in rural areas. There are often limited spots available, and as childcare duties often disproportionally fall to women, preventing them from fully participating in the workforce. They are deterred from pursuing careers in the sector because they feel they cannot offer their full capacity to operations without neglecting childcare duties.


The sector faces a high turnover rate, with 77% of respondents of the online questionnaire stating that it was difficult to get workers to stay long-term once hired. Many pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and a decrease in the supply of available workers as exacerbating this pre-existing problem.

While employers are exploring ways to meet the needs of their employees and encourage those who enter the sector to stay, it was clear operators faced frustration related to the high turnover rate as they feel they are constantly wasting efforts training employees who leave shortly there after. Due to this, it is difficult to focus on long-term growth and expanding operations — including automation — given how difficult it is to maintain a stable workforce. Oppositely, some positive examples of how investing in employee satisfaction can help with retention were heard throughout the consultations. Notably, building a sense of community for employees, both in and outside of the workplace (for example, team-building activities, leadership training) was provided as a successful example of improving retention and employee satisfaction.

As well, the agricultural sector has a higher average age of owner/operator compared to other sectors. Workers are increasingly open to transitioning to new jobs later in their careers and would bring a range of benefits to the sector. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity, as there are also many older workers who have experience in the sector and wish to continue work in some capacity. However, given their experience, older workers tend to have higher wage expectations, making it difficult for owners and operators to both attract and retain them over the long-term.

Overall, recruitment and retention are linked and face similar barriers and the general sentiment was that there is a need to find ways to make the industry a more attractive place to work to both recruit and retain workers.


Online questionnaire respondents noted that finding people with the right skillset for particular occupations in the sector is becoming increasingly difficult, given the perception that agriculture and agri-food operations only offer opportunities that require minimal skills. Overcoming this misconception so job seekers are aware of the wide range of opportunities available in the sector is critical.

Operators also face skills challenges after employees are hired, with 64% of online questionnaire respondents stating most workers do not have the skills necessary to be successful in the industry. Industry also frequently noted that they were concerned about the upcoming workforce not having access to learning infrastructure that would teach them the required skills. However, there is a linkage to retention, as it was clear these same employers are hesitant to spend resources on training when turn-over rates are so high. Several online questionnaire respondents and industry submissions also raised that while many high-skill jobs exist in agriculture and agri-food, keeping people working in these jobs is difficult because they come with higher wage and development expectations that cannot always be met.

On top of this, there is a shortage of high, or specialized, skilled employees, such as veterinarians and farm mechanics. Stakeholders voiced their particular concerns over a lack of access to these types of skills, as it can have a great effect on their businesses operations.

Automation and Technology

Automation and technology are often cited as a key solution to overcoming labour shortages. However, 50% of online questionnaire respondents stated they thought there was sufficient adoption of existing automation and labour-saving technologies in their industry. For the other 50% that saw insufficient adoption in the sector, it was clear that primary agriculture and processing face similar challenges to adopting automation and technology.

The top challenges cited were:

  • Adopting technology is too expensive
  • Too many barriers to adoption (for example, unclear return on investment, overly complex government program design, lack of equipment suppliers with reliable service and maintenance, limited access to reliable broadband ); and
  • New skills and/or increased access to training would be required to operate the technology.

Interestingly, despite consistent labour challenges, almost one quarter of online questionnaire respondents said they were not interested in automating or adopting further automation; which are partially related to the perceived risks associated with adopting new technologies. It is also related to a lack of adequate broadband network access. Written submissions from industry stakeholders stated that lack of access to high-speed internet was one of the top barriers to adoption of new technology that is increasingly reliant on being connected to the internet.

Capacity Building

Access to adequate data, information and capacity building resources is cited as a hindrance to confident decision making and business growth. Only 53% of online questionnaire respondents indicated they had access to the labour market information needed to make decisions, highlighting that there is room for improvement. It was also raised that while some data and other information from the government is available, it is not user-friendly or easy to access, source or locate. Some were simply unaware where to find data and other information, such as information on government programs that can offer supports, suggesting information sources need to be better publicized. Not having access to labour market information makes it difficult for industry to make business decisions and governments to set policy direction. In addition, there is a clear desire for more granular data collection in the specific areas of skills, education trends and farm level data. A gap in government support programming when there are data collection initiatives taking place was also mentioned as a barrier to providing data to share for the sector.

Related to capacity building, owners and operators often have trouble fulfilling human resources functions, especially given the demands of work that needs to be done on farms and in small and medium processing operations. In particular, women in the sector are reporting that a majority of the administrative and human resources work is falling on them, taking time away from their work. Overall, improving access to data and helping the sector build capacity would be highly useful for the sector to source, recruit, hire and retain workers.

Immigration and Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Temporary and permanent immigration has and will continue to be an important source of labour for the sector. The majority of workers who enter Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program work in primary agriculture, and the number of temporary foreign workers in food processing has steadily increased in recent years. Individuals seeking permanent residence in Canada are a similarly important pool of labour for the sector, given that immigration accounts for almost 100% of Canada's labour force growth, and, by 2032, it is projected to account for 100% of Canada's population growth.

Respondents of the online questionnaire and those who submitted written submissions noted many of the same challenges with access to migrant workers or attraction of new Canadians to fill labour shortages. In general, this feedback aligned with the interim report of the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, which compiled these challenges into four main categories:

  1. Application Process:
    • Overly complex application process — inaccessible to employers without HR resources/time;
    • Not aligned with food production cycle timelines;
    • Inconsistencies in application of rules, including different processing times by stream, country of origin, Canadian province;
    • Lack of transparency regarding where applications are in the process; and
    • Lack of coordination between government departments and orders of government.
  2. Housing:
    • Lack of available housing and difficulties finding workers homes during a housing crisis.
    • Impacts of housing deduction caps on employers, particularly those looking to transition workers to permanent residency;
  3. Wages:
    • TFWP wage rates do not accurately depict regional labour market realities, creating inequities and tensions between TFWs and Canadian workers that challenge transitioning workers to permanent residency; and
    • TFWP rules constrain employers' ability to pay TFWs higher wages due to experience and performance, limiting opportunities for their career advancement in the process.
  4. Program parameters
    • Fundamental need for other provincial nominee programs that are responsive to employers;
    • Lack of flexibility to allow for labour mobility within companies;
    • Current cap on food processing sector for TFW employment is 30%. To be able to grow the business more foreign workers are required. Increasing the cap to 50% would be a significant improvement;
    • Language Standards for approval of permanent residence are different among provinces

Other Feedback Received

In addition to the main themes, a few additional challenges were raised repeatedly throughout consultations:

  1. Family members no longer interested in pursuing agriculture as a career or taking over family farms, widening the gap in management and leadership positions:
    • With the average age of a farmer being 56 in Canada, there is a need to provide support to those without an identified successor who wish to transition their farm.
    • High capital and land costs have made it difficult for young and aspiring farmers to purchase or lease land.
    • Youth perceptions and knowledge of the sector is misaligned with the reality of the modern agriculture and agri-food sector.
  2. Employees face bias and discrimination when pursuing careers, which deters or discourages them from seeking further employment in the sector:
    • Important that aspiring farmers "see themselves" in a sector that represents the diversity of Canada.
  3. Frustration with government action to date (especially with regards to COVID programming) and citing it as exacerbating the labour problem.
    • Contention that supports such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit disincentivized workers from participating in the labour market.
    • Sense that health and border requirements unfairly disrupted travel of temporary and permanent immigration.

Opportunities to Address Labour Challenges

Representatives of the sector identified a number of ideas to address labour challenges during the engagement process.


There were a variety of ideas to address recruitment challenges in the agriculture and agri-food sector submitted in the online questionnaire, written submissions and through target consultations. Incentivizing and subsidizing labour, as well as making the sector more attractive, were the main themes that emerged on recruitment. The top ideas recommended for action include:

  • Providing funding/tax credits/programs for hiring to help absorb costs related to increased wages and benefits;
  • Improving workplace culture;
  • Increasing wages;
  • Improving working conditions; and
  • Offering non-wage incentives (for example, health and vacation benefits, childcare, transportation).

Another area that was repeatedly raised was focusing efforts on recruiting youth and new entrants to the sector. Several respondents noted how critical it is to get youth that did not grow up in a farm or factory setting interested in careers in the sector. This could include increasing agricultural education in primary and secondary school, better promoting agriculture and agri-food as a career of choice, and clearly outlining the multiple different career paths available in the sector. It was made clear in both the online questionnaire and by written responses that if employers had additional resources to dedicate to human resources capacity, they would be more successful in recruiting people who have not been strongly connected to the sector to find a rewarding career. Industry signaled a desire for a career awareness campaign specifically targeted to underrepresented groups. It was repeatedly acknowledged that underrepresented groups, such as youth, women and Indigenous people, present tremendous opportunity for addressing workforce shortages, and bring new experiences and ideas to the workforce.

Additionally, industry groups raised that improving services and infrastructure in rural communities would help tackle one of the main recruitment challenges — inability or unwillingness to move to a rural area. This includes improving access and availability childcare in rural area, as this was cited as a main barrier for women's participation. While childcare facilities exist in rural areas, they are often unable to meet capacity needs of the area. Many felt changing negative perceptions surrounding living and working in rural areas will create long-lasting benefits for the sector. They also noted that building a sense of community by way of family support services may also help recruitment of newcomers to the sector.


Responses clearly demonstrate that the linkage between recruitment and retention is strong and action taken in one area can make progress in both. Respondents of the online questionnaire expressed that improving working conditions (for example, regular hours, less physical tasks, enhancing workplace culture) and wages, as well as increasing promotional, training, education, and development opportunities will help with the retention of employees. Many employees who provided feedback also noted the importance of on-boarding. In absence of a positive on-boarding experience, employees felt they were left to learn the job on their own with little guidance. Making sure employers are equipped with the knowledge and resources to on-board employees could lead to improved retention rates and provide employees with the positive experience they are seeking.

During engagement with the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council, it was emphasized that increasing the availability of mentorship and job-shadowing opportunities, with an emphasis on youth and underrepresented groups, could help employees develop a more meaningful connection to their work and better understand career advancement opportunities. There was also reference to ensuring provincial and territorial labour frameworks provide adequate protections for agricultural workers. Overall, there was a clear sentiment that people want to feel more connected to their work and clearly see what career advancement opportunities are available to them.

With people living and looking to work longer, keeping older workers in the workforce longer was also cited as an opportunity to help address labour shortages. Older workers offer a wealth of knowledge experience from previously working in the sector or other careers and, in many cases, require less training to perform the job. It is important to find ways to incentivize older workers to stay. A potential avenue that was raised was exploring the use of tax credits. Combined with this, it would be important to increase the communication around the types of jobs the sector can offer to older workers so they are aware of the opportunities that exist.


A skilled workforce is needed to prepare the sector for the future, which includes transitioning to a sustainable economy and supply chain, as well as adopting new technologies as they become available. Almost 65% of online questionnaire respondents noted that more training and skills development would help ensure that new and existing workers have the skills needed to support the transition to an economy that is more resilient and adaptable to a changing climate.

Action is needed to increase the availability and accessibility of training and skill development opportunities so employees have opportunities to advance in their career and employers can satisfy their employees desire to have meaningful and fulfilling work opportunities so the sector can continue to thrive. Another important step required to close the skills gap is improving information gathering and developing a common vernacular when talking about skills so a standard understanding on the actual gaps that need to be filled can be communicated. Ensuring skills required to be successful in the sector are communicated and understood from primary school all the way through to university was cited as an important area in closing the skills gap. As well, the development of standardized certification program for the sector was raised several times.

AAFC's Skills Development Table, that includes representatives from industry, academia, and agricultural organizations, is doing important work in the area of developing an understanding on skills gaps and how they are communicated. Their work is on-going and includes, amongst other things, identifying effective actions that can be taken to advance progress on upskilling, reskilling and make training opportunities more widely available.

Automation and Technology

Industry submissions repeatedly called for more investment and funding programs in automation technologies as a complementary solution while there is a general lack of labour available. However, despite persistent labour challenges, concerns with automating or adopting further automation include: lack of available technicians to fix the technology if it breaks, perceived risks if the technology fails (for example, losing production days) and high cost of entry. Finding ways to showcase the success and benefits of the automation and technology available would be a welcomed solution to help operators and owners overcome their hesitation.

To bridge this gap, some stakeholders maintained it is crucial that those who invest in automation and technology have adequate access to technical support and training for any new technologies brought into their operations. It was also noted that, while there are funding programs available for "new" automation technologies and innovative solutions, the parameters and design of government programming make it difficult or cumbersome to qualify. Exploring ways to streamline applications and adjust program parameters were presented as a potential solution to this.

In addition, industry groups called on government to expand access to high-speed broadband and 5G networks to help facilitate adoption of automation technologies.

Capacity Building

Several online questionnaire respondents noted difficulties with managing their operations due to lack of resources and high turnover. On top of this, the execution of administrative and human resources duties disproportionately fall on women in farming operations. It is clear action is needed to increase access to various tools available to alleviate pressure and allow the sector to focus on operations. Respondents provided potential areas for action, including increasing information sharing between industry and governments to ensure common understanding and improving data sharing, including making it more widely available. In addition to improving the availability of data, finding ways to improve accessibility and presentation of data were raised as an important area for action. Given how much information exists across many platforms, solutions to consolidate this information and make it easier to navigate would be beneficial for the sector.

Immigration and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

There is a recognition that the sector will continue to rely on temporary foreign workers as a critical labour source. Several challenges with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which is administered jointly by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), were raised throughout the consultations, including: the administrative burden, slow processing times, cap on the number of workers and worker protection and safety.

Individuals and industry made several suggestions on the changes they would like to see to immigration and the temporary foreign worker program that would improve the arrival and retention of foreign labour:

  • Online training available for employers on how to apply to the TFWP;
  • Expand opportunities for permanent residency to all migrant workers, including low-wage workers; and
  • Create local community support networks similar to the welcoming communities for refugees and new Canadians.

AAFC will remain engaged with ESDC and IRCC to ensure the challenges faced by the sector are well understood as changes to the TFWP are made. Annex C contains detailed information on reform efforts being undertaken by Employment and Social Development Canada and Annex D contains information on immigration pathways under Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.


Several other innovative solutions were raised outside of the main challenge areas, including:

  • Working with other seasonal industries experiencing shortages (for example, tourism) to share workers and offer year round employment;
  • Offering tax incentives to help with start-up costs and wages;
  • Increasing promotion of local food systems to get the general public involved in the production and distribution of food;
  • Showcasing the sustainable practices used in agriculture and agri-food to appeal to employees with skillsets in that area of expertise;
  • Using extension services to fill some of the more difficult skills and knowledge gaps;
  • Providing scholarship opportunities to pursue an agricultural education;
  • Supporting labour cooperatives to help alleviate other pressures with running a farm or factory (for example, housework, cooking, childcare); and
  • Establishing land matching programs to help new farmers acquire land without taking on even more risk in starting a new farm businesses.

Next Steps

Targeted engagement will continue throughout 2023 as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada develops the Agricultural Labour Strategy. Continued engagement with stakeholders and provinces and territories will be needed following the initial launch of the Strategy to ensure it is reflective of the evolving needs of the sector. Work will continue with CAHRC, FBC and CFA on their National Workforce Strategic Plan to ensure efforts are complementary.

Given many of the levers for labour-related initiatives rest with other government departments (for example, childcare, skills and training, rural development), AAFC will continue our engagement with other government departments to advance these important labour-related initiatives that also affect the broader Canadian economy. On immigration and TFWP reform specifically, AAFC will continue our work with ESDC and IRCC to ensure the needs of the agricultural sector are understood and reflected.

Continued and on-going engagement with Canadians and the sector is critical as AAFC, with support from provincial and territorial governments, as well as industry, work together to develop an Agricultural Labour Strategy.


Agriculture and agri-food has been identified as a key driver for sustainable economic growth at both the federal and provincial levels. There is an understanding that the chronic labour shortages being experienced are hindering the success of the sector and its ability to provide food to Canadians and the world; and the consultations further illuminated these issues. The stability and security of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector depend on access to a skilled and reliable workforce and the Strategy will focus on solutions that are responsive to the needs of the sector.


Annex A: Overview of Online Consultations Results

The online questionnaire was designed to gain a better understanding of the labour landscape in the agriculture and agri-food sector and collect ideas from Canadians that would inform the development of the Agricultural Labour Strategy. The online questionnaire was open from June 27 to September 28, 2022. 218 completed responses were received.

Respondent Self-Identification

In what capacity are you submitting feedback on the Agricultural Labour Strategy?

As an individual: 168
On behalf of an organization: 36
On behalf of an association: 14

Which of the following best describes your gender?

Male: 71
Female: 76
Please Specify (Other): 9
Prefer Not to Say: 5

What is your age group?

18 years or younger: 0
19 to 24 years: 5
25 to 29 years: 4
30 to 34 years: 21
35 to 39 years: 19
40 to 44 years: 24
45 to 49 years: 18
50 to 54 years: 22
55 to 59 years: 10
60 years and over: 31
Prefer Not to Say: 7


What is the primary type of work?

Full-time: 85
Part-time: 20
Seasonal: 43

Do you employ Temporary Foreign Workers on your operation?

Yes: 36
No: 86
Not Applicable: 29

Do you use a provincial immigration program for your operation?

Yes: 15
No: 103
Not Applicable: 34

Do you employ students on your operation?

Yes: 71
No: 57
Not Applicable: 24

How long have you been working in the Agriculture and Agri-Food sector?

Average: 24.39 years

On average, how many people do you employ?

Average: 20.5 people

In which province or territory are you located?

Alberta: 32
British Columbia: 32
Manitoba: 12
New Brunswick: 6
Newfoundland: 1
Nova Scotia: 7
Ontario: 64
Prince Edward Island: 1
Quebec: 31
Saskatchewan: 21
North West Territories: 0
Nunavut: 0
Yukon: 0

Are you in an urban or rural area?

Urban: 53
Rural: 150

Which of the following best describes your organization's/association's sector of activity?

Agriculture/Crops: 139
Agro-forestry: 3
Communication: 2
Education: 5
Environment and Ecology: 2
Financial Services: 0
Fish and Aquaculture: 0
Food Industry: 7
Food Retail, Markets: 1
Health care: 2
Indigenous Organization: 0
Industrial: 0
Livestock Food Processing: 7
National or Local Government: 3
Nutrition: 0
Trade and Commerce: 4
Utilities: 3
Other: 26


Which of the following best describes your operation?

Oilseed and grain farming: 23
Vegetable and melon farming: 22
Fruit and tree nut farming: 11
Greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production: 6
Other crop farming: 10
Beef cattle ranching and farming: 14
Dairy cattle and milk production: 18
Hog and pig farming: 1
Poultry and egg production: 6
Sheep and goal farming: 0
Other animal production: 2
Food and beverage processing: 1
Other: 36

*Please note the total does not add to 218 in all cases as self-identification questions were voluntary.


Annex B: Stakeholders and Forums Involved in Consultation Process

  1. Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick
  2. Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan
  3. Agri‑Food Innovation Council
  4. Alberta Canola
  5. Alberta Lamb Producers
  6. Alberta Pork
  7. Atlantic Poultry Incorporated
  8. Animal Nutrition Association of Canada
  9. Baking Association of Canada
  10. BC Tree Fruit and Grape Industry
  11. Beef Farmers of Ontario
  12. British Columbia Agriculture Council
  13. British Columbia Food and Beverage
  14. Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council
  15. Canadian Agricultural Youth Council
  16. Canadian Agri‑Food Technology
  17. Canadian Association of Farm Advisors (CAFA) Inc.
  18. Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance
  19. Canadian Canola Growers Association
  20. Canadian Federation of Agriculture
  21. Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses
  22. Canadian Fruit and Vegetable Growers
  23. Canadian Hatching Egg Producers
  24. Canadian Herb Specialty Agriculture and Natural Health Products Coalition
  25. Canadian Honey Council
  26. Canadian Labour Congress
  27. Canadian Meat Council
  28. Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association
  29. Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance
  30. Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council
  31. Canadian Produce Marketing Association
  32. Canadian Standards Association
  33. Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
  34. Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec
  35. Flower Growers Canada
  36. Food Policy Advisory Committee
  37. Food & Beverage Atlantic
  38. Food and Beverage Canada
  39. Food and Beverage Manitoba
  40. Food and Beverage Ontario
  41. Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada
  42. Global Cold Chain Alliances
  43. GWU Local 333 ILWU
  44. Keystone Agricultural Producers
  45. L’Union des producteurs agricoles
  46. Labour Task Team (comprised of federal, provincial and territorial government representatives)
  47. Manitoba Beef Producers
  48. Mushrooms Canada
  49. National Cattle Feeder’s Association
  50. Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture
  51. Ontario Federation of Agriculture
  52. Polytechnics Canada
  53. Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture
  54. Producteurs de légumes de transformation du Québec
  55. Racetracks of Canada
  56. Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities
  57. Saskatchewan Cattleman’s Association
  58. Skills Development Table
  59. SM4
  60. Sollio Groupe Coopératif Stratégie nationale
  61. United Food and Commercial Workers
  62. University of Guelph
  63. Western Agriculture Labour Initiative
  64. Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association
  65. Western Grain Elevator Association
  66. Women’s Roundtable (convened on the margins of Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference)
  67. Woodbine Entertainment Group
  68. World Education Services

Annex C: Employment and Social Development Canada Reform Efforts for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Introduction of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Workforce Solutions Roadmap

On April 4, 2022, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, announced the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program Workforce Solutions Road Map. Temporary measures introduced under the Roadmap have been extended until October 30, 2023.

This initiative will strive to ensure it continues to meet the labour market needs of today, and that the Canadian workforce remains robust and sustainable thorough various endeavours. The Road Map will be comprised of five key policy changes.

The following changes are effective since April 4, 2022:

  • To address seasonal peaks, there will no longer be a limit to the number of low-wage positions that employers in seasonal industries, such as fish and seafood processing, can fill through the TFW Program. This makes permanent the Seasonal Cap Exemption that has been in place since 2015. In addition, the maximum duration of these positions will be increased from 180 days to 270 days per year.
  • Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) will be valid for 18 months, an increase from 9 months. (Prior to COVID-19, LMIA's were valid for 6 months).
  • The maximum duration of employment for High-Wage and Global Talent Streams workers will be extended from two years to three years. This extension will help workers access pathways to qualify for permanent residency, enabling them to contribute to our workforce for the long-term.

Effective April 30, 2022:

  • For seven sectors, which demonstrated labour shortages, the cap would be raised to 30% for one year. Employers will be allowed to hire up to 30% of their workforce through the TFW Program for low-wage positions for one year. All other employers will be allowed to hire up to 20% of their workforce through the TFW Program for low-wage positions until further notice, an increase from the former 10% cap for many employers.
    • The seven sectors are the following: Food Manufacturing (NAICS 311); Wood Product Manufacturing (NAICS 321); Furniture and Related Product Manufacturing (NAICS 337); Accommodation and Food Services (NAICS 72); Construction (NAICS 23); Hospitals (NAICS 622); and Nursing and Residential Care Facilities (NAICS 623)
  • End to the current policy that automatically refuses to process LMIA applications for low-wage occupations in the Accommodation and Food Services and Retail Trade sectors in regions with an unemployment rate of 6% or higher.

Housing Standards

Minister Qualtrough convened the inaugural TFW Program Ministerial Consultative Roundtable July 13-14, 2022, with an initial focus on housing accommodation; meetings are to be held twice annually for a period of three years. Day 1, July 13 discussions were with Provincial/Territorial counterparts and certain municipalities with high volumes of TFWs. Day 2, July 14 discussions were with stakeholders.

Budget 2022

Budget 2022 proposed a number of measures to increase protections for workers, to reduce administrative burdens for trusted repeat employers, and to ensure employers can quickly bring in workers to fill short-term labour market gaps. These include:

  • $29.3 million over three years to introduce a Trusted Employer Model that reduces red tape for repeat employers who meet the highest standards for working and living conditions, protections, and wages in high-demand fields. Further details on this program will be announced in the coming year.
  • $48.2 million over three years, with $2.8 million in remaining amortization, to implement a new foreign labour program for agriculture and fish processing, tailored to the unique needs of these employers and workers. The program will be regularly reviewed by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion for its impact on local labour markets to maximize the employment of Canadians and permanent residents and to ensure the program is not negatively impacting wages for Canadians and permanent residents.
  • $64.6 million over three years to increase capacity to process employer applications within established service standards.
  • $14.6 million in 2022-23, with $3 million in remaining amortization, to make improvements to the quality of employer inspections and hold employers accountable for the treatment of workers.

Annex D: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's Immigration Levels and Pathways Options

Changes to Express Entry

On June 23, 2022, legislative changes that allow Express Entry to better select candidates able to help meet specific economic goals received royal assent. This selection will be done by creating "categories" — in other words, by selecting immigrants based on key attributes that support identified economic priorities, such as educational credentials, work experience, or official language knowledge. For example, we could create a category for those with work experience in a particular occupation or with a particular educational background, or a category that could include multiple characteristics, such as international students who graduated with a particular degree or hold a certain language level. Candidates who meet a particular category would be ranked according to their Comprehensive Ranking System scores and the top among them invited to apply.

Category-based selection is limited to candidates who qualify for the programs managed under Express Entry, including: the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Federal Skilled Trades Program. It will comprise a portion of overall invitations to apply, and invitations based on the Comprehensive Ranking System scores and individual programs will remain. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada completed consultations for category-based selection in January 2023.

Summary of immigration targets, 2021-2025
Immigration Target PNP Target PNP % Of Total Economic Allocation PNP % Of Total Allocation Atlantic Immigration Target Pilots (Including Rural/Northern, Agri-Food) Target
2021 401,000 80,800 34.75% 20.14% 6,000 8,500
2022 411,000 81,500 33.74% 19.82% 6,250 10,000
2023 465,000 105,500 39.63% 22.68% 8,500 8,500
2024 485,000 110,000 39.12% 22.68% 11,500 12,125
2025 500,000 117,500 39.00% 23.50% 14,500 14,750

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

IRCC's Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 puts emphasis on immigration through PNPs. For 2023, the target for total immigration is 465,000, and an additional 19,500 spaces for PNP. For 2024, the target for total immigration is 485,000, and an additional 17,000 spaces for PNP. For 2025, the target for total immigration is 500,000, and an additional 17,000 spaces for PNP. IRCC believes that the PTs will be happy with the focus on regional immigration, so the PTs can achieve their own unique immigration objectives.

Under PNPs, PTs currently have the ability to create dedicated streams based on their economic needs.

Agri-Food Pilot

The three-year Agri-Food Pilot was launched in 2020 in response to identified, long-term labour shortages in the meat processing, greenhouse production, and livestock raising industries to allow employers' with TFWs that return for year-round work (for example, at mushrooms farms or some processing facilities) to gain PR rather than repeatedly using the TFW program. The Pilot is still in place and accepting applications – up to 2,750 applications per year until May 14, 2025.

Atlantic Immigration Program

The Atlantic Immigration Program is a pathway to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers and international graduates from a Canadian institution who want to work and live in 1 of Canada's 4 Atlantic provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador. The program helps employers hire qualified candidates for jobs they haven't been able to fill locally. The Atlantic Immigration Program is now permanent and replaced the Atlantic Immigration Pilot on January 1, 2022. With at least 6,000 admission spaces available yearly, the Atlantic Immigration Program will complement the Provincial Nominee Programs in each Atlantic province.

Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced the expansion of the Rural and Northern Immigration pilot on August 26, 2022.

The geographic borders of the 11 participating communities were expanded. The communities are: North Bay (ON), Sudbury (ON), Timmins, (ON), Sault Ste. Marie (ON), Thunder Bay (ON), Brandon (MB), Altona/Rhineland (MB), Moose Jaw (SK), Claresholm (AB), West Kootenay (BC) and Vernon (BC).

Other changes to the pilot included: expanding the range of job offers available to candidates with specific work experience; allowing communities to participate for a longer period, until August 2024, when the pilot comes to an end; helping community partners provide greater support to candidates and employers; and reducing the amount of settlement funds participants are required to have.

There is a maximum of 2,750 principal applicants, plus family members, whose applications can be accepted for processing under RNIP, in any given year.

In January 2022, the Government of Canada invested $35 million to ensure newcomers settling in small towns and rural communities have access to essential services during their first year in Canada.


What We Heard Report - Agricultural Labour Strategy

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Paru également en français sous le titre Rapport « Ce que nous avons entendu » - Stratégie sur la main-d’œuvre agricole

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