"The squeaky wheel hopefully gets the grease," says CFA president on National Agricultural Labour Strategy

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Earlier this week, an announcement came through that consultations for the National Agricultural Labour Strategy are open.

The consultations will allow the agriculture and agri-food sector to have an opportunity to weigh in on labour shortages, challenges, and obstacles through an online process. The labour strategy is put into action through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), and Food and Beverage Canada (FBC).

Mary Robinson, president of the CFA, joined RealAg Radio host, Shaun Haney, to discuss what exactly this means and what Canadians can expect.

“We all know that the labour shortages, the words they use are severe and chronic,” says Robinson. “When you look at the numbers coming out of CAHRC and their research, they’re saying that by 2029 our labour shortage is going to exceed 115,000. That’s jobs we’re not going to be able to fill.”

In the mandate letter Minister of AAFC, Marie-Claude Bibeau was tasked with, one of the first items on the list was labour, which sparked the announcement from the federal government on the recent survey launch.

Robinson is encouraging everyone to take a few minutes and fill out the survey, so the government can get the feedback that this really is an issue, because “the squeaky wheel hopefully gets the grease, and they’ll build some solutions.”

The labour issue isn’t a new one, and it’s one that we’ve talked about for a long time. Identification is one thing — but finding the solution is the next.

Debra Hauer, who recently retired from the CAHRC, put it in a great way, says Robinson: “How do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time?”

The issue is simply that enormous.

“I did the survey and one of the questions was, what do you suggest as potential action items. I think if people turn that back on themselves, and ask the question of, really what tangible suggestions could I make to government? What could they do to help address the fact that, by nature, when you look at the challenges agriculture faces, to hire people, it’s things like transportation, rural broadband,” Robinson explains.

“Most of our work is rural, and we’ve seen a migration from rural to urban. We look at the seasonality of the work, the intensity of the work, the compensation of the work. So when we look at those challenges, we need to ask what we can do to improve upon that.”

The survey aims not only for feedback, but also to combine all the thinkers out there, and see what we can come up with, because as Robinson emphasizes, it isn’t an easy problem to solve.

“It’s chronic, it’s something we’ve been dealing with for generations,” she says. “When we take into consideration the 2017 report that Dominic Barton unveiled and talked about the potential for growth in our sector, labour is one of the key components we’ve got to fix in order to capture some of that growth potential.”

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