WOODSTOCK: The Ontario government is launching an agri-food labour strategy that will address sector labour challenges and ensure a stronger, more sustainable and innovative agri-food industry.
Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development announced the strategy and two initial projects during a virtual roundtable with leaders from Ontario’s agrifood supply chain.
“Many of our partners in the agri-food sector have voiced their concerns about labour disruptions to our food processing and supply chain due to the pandemic and they shared the need for a labour strategy for agriculture and food processing,” said Minister Hardeman.
“That’s why we are committed to working with all partners to plan for today, and beyond the recovery period and help set up the sector for future growth. By developing this labour strategy, we will position this sector for success and ensure Ontario’s food supply chain is protected and remains strong.”
During the virtual roundtable, Minister Hardeman expanded on the government’s investment of $812,000 to two projects aimed at labour shortages.
The program includes:
• $617,400 for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture for Feeding Your Future: Connecting Ontario’s Agri-Food Workforce, a platform that helps fill the labour shortage through a job matching concierge service, and provides free virtual career fairs, webinar series and specialized training opportunities.
• $195,000 for Food and Beverage Ontario to implement a strategy that will address critical
challenges facing the sector such as talent attraction, skills development, and innovation. Working together with industry partners, the strategy will promote career opportunities and support training in the agri-food sector while identifying concrete actions to make the agri-food value chain more resilient.
“Farming and agricultural workers are vital to putting food on the table for hard-working families,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “By thinking ahead and investing in programs that will attract and train people for these rewarding, in-demand careers, our local economies can continue to thrive for years to come.”
“The agri-food sector has endured many challenges and uncertainties during the pandemic, and we are pleased to have ongoing support from the Ontario government,” said Peggy Brekveld, OFA President.
“We are very proud of the Feeding Your Future initiative and its continued success addressing labour gaps through its job matching service, which connects job seekers with agri-food employers.”
“Thank you to the Ontario government for their continued support in addressing labour challenges in the agri-food industry,” said Chris Conway, CEO of Food and Beverage Ontario. “This important funding will allow us to build a strong, resilient and innovative food supply chain well into the future.”
The agri-food sector is one of the economic engines of Ontario. It supports more than 860,000 jobs in Ontario and contributes more than $47.3 billion each year to the province’s economy.
With this labour strategy and the targeted investments announced today, the agri-food sector is well-positioned for growth in the short-run and in the long-term.
• The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) estimates a workforce shortfall of 123,000 workers by 2029 in Canada due to retirements and the shrinking number of workers entering the agricultural sector. Ontario is expected to represent the largest share of the shortfall.
• According to the CAHRC, 16,500 agricultural jobs in Canada went unfilled in 2017, which
cost the sector $2.9 billion in lost revenues.
• Ontario is encouraging the use of rapid tests by agri-food businesses, including primary agricultural production, food and beverage processing and key distribution centres. Businesses who are interested in participating can contact email@example.com for more information on how to join this free program.