Brady Stadnicki, policy analyst at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), spoke to GlobalMeatNews after a Canadian government report highlighted a chronic workforce shortage in Canada’s food production sector.
According to the Labour Market Information Study (LMIS), a report released by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) and Conference Board of Canada, unfilled vacancies cost the beef industry CAD141 million ($109.2 million) in sales in 2014.
The study examined the current standing of the agricultural labour market and also included a 10-year national forecast, which projected that the number of unfilled jobs in the beef sector will more than quadruple over the next decade to 12,500 workers.
Stadnicki said: “We’ve definitely been aware of the issue for quite a while, and it’s the entire sector, not just the beef industry, that’s finding less and less people want to work in agriculture, whether in the primary side of farming, or the secondary processing side as well.”
Indeed, some agricultural sectors are having an even worse time than the beef sector - unfilled labour demand in the beef sector currently sits at 6%, which is below average, especially compared to the 33% unfilled labour in the fruit and vegetables industry.
However, Stadnicki stresses that “even though we’re below average in ability to find workers, there’s going to be more challenges in the future with increasing global beef demand, as well as more producers wanting to retire as they’re in that older age bracket”.
The CCA has helped develop a Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan to address the issue, which, according to CCA president Dan Darling, “is critical to ensure the industry has a sufficient workforce to take advantage of significant opportunities in the future”.
The organisation’s top priority is to make the industry as profitable as possible to entice new farmers and producers into the business, lobbying the government for more effective policies, creating a better business environment, and improving market access for products.
Attracting the next generation of workers to the beef industry is also key, Stadnicki added. The CCA has developed a number of programmes focused on youth, including its Cattlemen’s Young Leaders mentorship programme, and a Young Cattlemen’s Council, which encourages young leadership in the industry.
“Making the beef industry attractive to younger folks is important to alleviate the problematic projections the LMIS study made about the future labour gap widening,” he said. “If we can make the industry as profitable as possible, we will see more youth and even people that didn’t grow up on a farm take up a job in the industry. That’s our goal.”