In this file:
· US: U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Focused on Stable Food Supply, As Farm Labor Worries Grow
· Canada: Agriculture labour shortage feared amid COVID-19 travel bans
U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Focused on Stable Food Supply, As Farm Labor Worries Grow
Oklahoma Farm Report
17 Mar 2020
U.S. agriculture is working diligently to maintain the stability of our food supply as concerns over COVID-19 lead to increased consumer purchases of groceries and other items.
The following statement may be attributed to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall about the commitment of farmers and ranchers, as well as a serious concern related to the U.S. government’s decision to suspend visa processing in Mexico to combat the spread of the virus.
“Farmers and ranchers remain committed to doing the work in the fields, orchards and barns across the country to ensure Americans have access to healthy, affordable food. Particularly now, during these challenging times, an assured food supply allows families to focus on the safety and well-being of their loved ones. We commend the good work being done to protect families and our population and appreciate all the workers focused on ensuring food gets from our farms to grocery stores, and of course we are grateful for the health care workers ensuring we can treat those who are ill and contain the pandemic.
“The decision to halt visa application processing in Mexico will restrict the number of immigrant workers being allowed to enter the country. Under the new restrictions, American farmers will not have access to all of the skilled immigrant labor needed at a critical time in the planting season. This threatens our ability to put food on Americans’ tables.
“We fully support the administration’s efforts to protect the public during this health crisis. We are in constant contact with USDA, the State Department and the White House. We have urged them to find safe, practical ways to admit farm laborers as emergency workers for visa purposes while still protecting public health. Failing to do so will impact our ability to provide a healthy, affordable domestic food supply.
“We will remain watchful and vigilant to ensure U.S. agriculture and others in the food supply chain are able to continue feeding America, as we do 365 days a year. We are in close communication with our state Farm Bureaus, Congress and the administration as we all work together to protect our food supply and our communities in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Agriculture labour shortage feared amid COVID-19 travel bans
Canadian agriculture depends on Temporary Foreign Workers to fill labour market shortages during the spring and summer months, yet COVID-19 travel bans restrict non-residents from entering Canada
by Shelby Thevenot, Canada Immigration Newsletter (CIC News)
March 17, 2020
There is never a shortage of work to do on Canadian farms, and as Canada halts most non-residents from entering the country, agriculture industry professionals fear unfilled gaps in the labour market may affect production.
As the ground begins to thaw in the spring, Canadian farmers need to start planting crops for the year’s harvest. Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) come to do the work that farmers cannot find local workers to do. Either there are not enough Canadians applying or they lack the necessary skills for the job.
Many of these workers return to the same farms year after year, knowing the equipment and the fields like the back of their hands.
Chris Connery, a farmer from Manitoba, says about 55 foreign workers come to work on his produce farm each year. They grow crops like broccoli, asparagus, carrots and strawberries.
“We’ve had some of the same workers coming here for over 20 years, and they know the jobs we have here through and through,” Connery told CIC News. “If we don’t have those foreign workers we would either have to retrain people for those jobs or we would have to choose to do other crops.”
Much of Canada’s agricultural industry is concerned, following the COVID-19 measures announced yesterday, that without the ability to bring non-residents into the country they will lose integral members of their team.
Steve Bamford, who sits on the board of directors for Toronto Wholesale Produce Association, said the lack of workers could spell produce shortages in Canada.
“We’re worried about food security because you can’t rely on [the] U.S.A. and Mexico to supply us with fresh fruits and vegetables,” Bamford said in a phone interview.
In addition, some farms may be at risk of losing their entire operations if they cannot adjust to the lack of workers in time to turn a profit.
Many Canadian agriculture industry organizations are working with provincial and federal governments to find some sort of solution. While there is a need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 there is also a need for temporary foreign workers.
“All we know right now is as of March 18, no foreign worker can come into the country,” Bamford said. “And if this is the case that we will not be able to have our seasonal foreign workers come into the country, then we need a plan from Ottawa to support us to see how we’re going to make it through another year.”
Kevin Lemkay, a spokesperson from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, supplied a statement via email from the offices of Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Employment.
“We fully understand the importance of a stable labour force enabling Canadian food supply, and are committed to giving Canadians and businesses the support they need,” the statement read. “That is why we are working closely with stakeholders through a joint Emergency Response Committee, consisting of key agricultural and food processing stakeholders and government officials. This will help respond to issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Canada’s agriculture industry has been struggling with labour market shortages for years, looking to immigrants to help support the industry. The need for consistent labour prompted the formation of the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot that is set to launch March 30...