Business & Policy
Farm Help Is Hard to Find
Finding qualified and affordable skilled workers to employ at a farm is difficult, says FCC
By David Manly
Farm Credit Canada recently noticed a large disparity among full-time agricultural wages across the last seven years, with the majority of wages shifting from less than $12 an hour to between $12 and $19.99 per hour – an average increase of 22 per cent. This is significantly higher than the 15 per cent wage increase across the entire economy, according to Statistics Canada.
“The industry has grown quite a bit, and that has generated a stronger demand for farm labour,” says J. P. (Jean Philippe) Gervais, the chief economist at FCC. “The limited supply of available and qualified workers has resulted in higher wages for employees in the farm sector.”
Higher wages show potential employees that a career is a viable option. However, cautions Gervais, higher wages translate to increased costs for producers and farm businesses.
“But, I would argue that in the long term,” he says, “that if you think of the industry and not your own business, it is actually a good thing that we offer higher wages. It is a sign that the industry is growing.”
In addition to higher wages, the agricultural sector also must deal with an increasingly aging population, urban expansion on farmland and immigration trends. As well, agriculture competes with the oil, gas and mining industries for both skilled and unskilled labour, which further emphasizes the need to recruit outside the traditional pool of workers.
“We need to reflect positively upon the non-traditional pool of workers that would not necessarily consider working on a farm or in a food business,” says Gervais.
Despite the difficulties, Canadian farmers and agriculture workers still need to build the value of positions. Gervais says that this could help retain and convince other potential workers that your business is a good place to work.
“But we’re not there yet, as an industry,” he adds. “Given the pressure we’re facing on wages and higher labour costs we’ve faced in the past, we’re going to have to move in that direction.”
To help, FCC is encouraging people to speak positively about the industry and the jobs that are available on www.agriculturemorethanever.ca. The website aims to help improve perceptions among the general public about the agriculture industry across Canada.
The reasoning is simple, says Gervais: “When our customers succeed, we succeed. It is as simple as that.”