FNA Launches Temporary Foreign
Worker Program

For Immediate Release:
October 21, 2013

FNA has partnered with ILC Canada to provide Members with a full service solution for Canadian farmers to access Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) under federal programs to fill gaps in the farm labour market.

Shortages in domestic farm labour are widely documented in Canada and have been the subject of numerous news stories, particularly in the farm press. The Western Producer, Grainews, Manitoba Cooperator, Ontario Farmer and many others have provided strong reporting on the subject over the past few years. There have also been at least two private studies demonstrating the need for temporary foreign workers on Canadian farms.*

FNA conducted its own consultations with its members including a direct “Expression of Interest” exercise where members detailed their needs. The response was rapid and clear: a program is needed that reduces the burden on individual farms to meet the regulatory and recruitment requirements.

Acknowledging that some economic sectors have been the subject of controversy over their use or misuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, FNA Vice President Bill Martin said, “FNA will not allow farmers to be penalized for the bad behaviour of others.”

FNA found that while the need for access to temporary workers is well accepted, there is concern that public reaction could be coloured by the recent controversies, and that those controversies have made it even more challenging for individual farm operations to consider implementing a TFW plan.

By launching a program through FNA, the policy, communications and technical resources will be available to relieve farmers of having to deal with such issues.

“If you look in the agriculture space, there is really no one else who could do this. Retailers can’t afford the divided focus and while farm organizations have devoted resources to address the policy issues, they generally don’t want to become commercial services. And, frankly a lot of people are uneasy about being directly involved in something that has a controversial past. Which means if the farm business alliance doesn’t do it, it just won’t get done.”

“There may be some who, for ideological purposes, oppose any foreign workers being involved on Canadian farms,” Martin said, “but the fact remains that there is a labour shortage in almost every sector of agriculture and this program provides real benefits to the foreign workers themselves and the Canadian economy.”

Martin noted that even with access to the federal program, Canadian farmers face a significant competitive disadvantage when it comes to farm labour. It is widely reported that illegal foreign workers constitute a major proportion of U.S. farm labour and “Guest Worker” programs in Europe provide significantly lower wages.

“While FNA does not want to see similar situations becoming part of Canadian agriculture, we should recognize the economic reality represented by the widespread use by Canada’s agriculture competitors of cheap and under-regulated foreign workers.”

In contrast the Canadian program sets comparatively high minimum wages and depending on specific circumstances, imposes other costs and obligations that may include paying for airfare and accommodation.

“To be clear,” Martin emphasized, “this is not an inexpensive option for farmers. Anyone who might claim Canadian farmers want to use the program to get ‘cheap labour’ are either misinformed or flatly malicious.””

The program will be delivered by ILC Canada, a noted private recruitment agency with long experience in working with the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program, including a direct relationship with full certified Immigration Consulting services. FNA will provide member services, including monitoring quality of service, and such media relations as may be required.

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