The labour force, youth, and business risk management — RealAg LIVE! with Mary Robinson


In this RealAg LIVE! episode with Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), Mary joins host Shaun Haney to discuss agricultural policy issues including temporary foreign workers, business risk management programs, and engaging with youth and minorities. Check out the video below, or scroll down to read the summary!

Tune in Thursday, June 25, at 3 pm Eastern for a Q&A with FarmLink’s Neil Townsend!


  • Mary’s family farm in PEI was established in 1810, and they’re now farming around 2,000 acres; 500 rented out for potatoes, with soybeans, barley, and hay on a four-year rotation
  • Do we have enough temporary foreign workers on the ground in Canada now?
    • there are still many farms waiting for workers
    • Mexico was going to hit pause on sending workers to COVID-active farms; since then, if farms are able to prove the correct protocols, workers can still be sent there
    • we need to have resolution to the issues surrounding the TFW program — not just for the farms, but for the workers as well.
  • There have been some migrant workers who have died due to the coronavirus pandemic; what’s CFA’s standpoint on how it’s been handled?
    • COVID has created a lot of challenges and everyone is learning as they go
    • it’s devastating for everyone involved
    • CFA has put measures into place to avoid it from happening again
  • CFA has a new campaign, focusing on moving the needle with the government and create awareness
    • MNP, Syngenta, CSGA, CSTA, CN Rail, Nutrien, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association & Canadian Pork Council are all involved
    • it will focus on urban areas, to bring awareness and energy about agriculture and food production
    • Canadian food & Canadian farmers matter — and people can tell their government representatives that they want to see more support
  • Why is the Liberal government so disinterested in fixing the problems in Canadian agriculture?
    • Canadian agriculture has done such a great job of filling demand that people haven’t necessarily had to give it a second thought
    • there are some wins, but there are many others where we’re coming up short
    • has there been any effort in expanding who CFA is speaking to? Infrastructure, health, etc.
      • CFA has appeared as witnesses in standing committees for various departments
  • What’s CFA’s vision for a new/updated suite of federal business risk management programs?
    • what they have is obviously not working, but they’ve been consistent in what they’re asking for
    • asking for greater transparency on BRM
  • Any suggestions for how a newly certified horticulture student can cut his teeth in the ag/hort field?
    • horticulture is a broad specialty
    • reach out to the Canadian Horticulture Council to find endless opportunities
  • We need to develop a serious labour strategy
    • check out the Canadian Ag HR Council
  • Why does supply management seem to get all the love from the government?
    • Dairy has done a good job in their lobbying efforts, as have other groups (like the Canadian Cattlemen)
    • we don’t want to diminish what they’re getting — we need to figure out how to get as much
    • so much of what we need for policy applies to almost every facet of agriculture
  • The request for $2.6 billion; the indication from within government was that a number was needed — it wasn’t arbitrary but came from a scan across the country
    • the sense is that the government is in fire-fighting mode in regards to COVID; CFA is asking for a meaningful reply on BRM in October
  • How are we going to engage youth in agriculture?
    • it definitely has to be part of the labour strategy; positive awareness is key
  • As a woman ag leader, how is the ag industry doing with inclusion and helping women’s and other voices of minorities be heard?
    • you’re always going to run into discrimination of some kind
    • we need to see more women, more youth, and more visible minorities in ag

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