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Are We Facing a Labour Shortage?

‘The Agricultural Labour Issues Have Reached a Critical Point’

August 13, 2015  By Theresa Whalen

Farm labour issues “have reached a critical point.”

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) is involved in four research initiatives to review issues and identify solutions to the critical labour challenges facing the agricultural industry.

“The agricultural labour issues have reached a critical point,” explains CAHRC executive director Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst. “By building our labour market intelligence, evidence based policy can be developed and the industry can create meaningful plans to drive progress and find meaningful solutions.”

The first project is the Labour Market Information (LMI): Agricultural Supply and Demand Forecast Model. This three-year project defines a labour market information supply and demand model that will provide an overview of the current agricultural labour market and forecast labour supply and demand, provincially, nationally and by commodity.


The project identifies labour and skill gaps, and investigates opportunities and barriers to participation among population groups that have been traditionally under-represented in the agricultural workforce (e.g., Aboriginal peoples, new Canadians, older workers).

The second project is the National Agricultural Occupational Framework (NAOF) and Labour Market Support study. This project is clarifying a variety of much needed information about core jobs in agriculture and leveraging that information to build meaningful support tools to assist the sector to address its labour requirements and ensure the health and sustainability of Canada’s agricultural industry.

The development of job seeker, employee, educational and employer support tools are underway. Enhancements are being made to the online learning resource for the industry, AgriTalent. The development of a National Agricultural Job Board with commodity specific and regional components is also ongoing with the launch of a pilot planned this fall.

The third project is the Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan (WAP). The WAP was developed with extensive research over the last three years by an industry-led Labour Task Force (LTF) made up of representatives from all 12 of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Value Chain Roundtables.

Recent research has focused on clarifying the impacts of labour shortage on competitiveness across all commodities and regions of the agriculture and agri-food sector. This has developed into a review of issues and solutions regarding the industry’s need for continued access to non-domestic agriculture workers with findings documented in an update to the WAP.

The final initiative is Supporting the Advancement of Women in Agriculture (SAWA). This project examines and addresses critical barriers to advancement facing women in the industry. The purpose of this initiative is to engage women and stakeholders within the agriculture community to develop and implement a strategic program to support improved access to leadership opportunities and strengthen business success for women working in agriculture.

The council recently launched this research project with an announcement made during the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference in Calgary, followed by a media release, both of which generated extensive interest.

“Before you can fix a problem you have to know exactly what your problem is,” explains CAHRC chair Mark Wales. “This research is going to answer that key question for Canada’s agricultural labour situation, and give direction to the council in the development of the corrective policies, training and other actions.”

For more information on these and other research initiatives, visit CAHRC at

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