Why Temporary Foreign Workers Are So Important Right Now

picking ripe strawberries

 

Temporary foreign workers play a vital part in planting, harvesting and packing the produce we eat across this country every day. Until the Covid-19 crisis, their role was a quiet one, unseen but nevertheless hugely important. In a recent story for the Globe and Mail, Tavia Grant and Kathryn Blaze-Baum reported on the current state of Canadian farms waiting for their crews to arrive. Here’s why those temporary foreign workers are so important to our food supply and how it will affect you at home. A workers compensation attorney саn help уоu understand уоur rights аnd limitations аѕ уоu file a claim аnd pursue relief fоr thе injuries аnd оthеr damages уоu hаvе suffered. Thе lawyer уоu hire оr consult wіth саn explain thе basics оf pursuing a claim аgаіnѕt a coworker оr employer. You can check my site for more about the worker compensation attorney.

iceberg lettuce fields ready for harvest

 

While many of these workers are starting to arrive in Canada, 1,000 landed last week and over 3,000 more are scheduled for this week, the issue is what happens once they land.

Temporary foreign workers are so crucial to the production of quality and affordable food that the federal government on Monday announced it would provide farmers with $1,500 for each temporary foreign worker they employ. The $50-million in funding (which will also flow to food processors) will help offset the cost of paying workers during the mandatory 14-day quarantine period and ensure they have a place to stay where they can maintain physical distance.

The short Ontario growing season waits for no one. That two week quarantine, and other obstacles the pandemic poses, will likely result in a shortage of these temporary foreign workers when they are needed on farms the most. Here’s what that means for fruits and vegetables.

The next few weeks are critical for seeding and pruning fruit and vegetable crops, which are much more dependent on manual labour than, say, grain farming.

If farmers – particularly ones in fruit- and vegetable-rich provinces such as Nova Scotia, Ontario and B.C. – don’t get an adequate supply of labour by the time they need it most, they may cut back on production. Some already have. That could mean less variety and higher prices at the grocery store.

 

bringing in the watermelons

 

And for those who are thinking that out of work locals can step in to take these farm jobs and pick up the slack, the Globe reporters found that it isn’t that simple.

It’s not feasible to replace his foreign workers with local labour. For one, when the machines break, the (temporary foreign workers) are able to get them back up and running within a half-hour. They also know how to plant the seeds in specific ratios and ensure the different species remain segregated. “I get my back up a little bit on the subject,” says the New Farm’s Brent Preston. “There’s a perception that anyone can do farm work.”

The article shares the worries from Ontario farmers that their organic produce, which costs more, might not be chosen over cheaper options shipped in from California. Although it does point out that many shoppers, including our loyal Fiesta Farms customers, are willing to pay more for local.

 

asparagus harvesters

 

While these are difficult times for all of us, and we are plagued by financial worries, thoughts about the future, and not knowing from one day to the next how long this will last, there is hope. The New Farm sees the possibility for change once we’ve come out the other side.

As Mr. Preston contemplates how to get through this year’s growing season, he wonders whether the New Farm might emerge stronger than ever. The operation will have a more diverse customer base. The public will be acutely aware of how food is produced and distributed. And with the issue of climate change now more squarely at the fore, ecological farms like his might see a bump in sales. “How can we make this shift more permanent?” Mr. Preston says. “How can we make sure people don’t go back to the status quo, where the large majority of consumers don’t know or care where their food comes from, and where the decision is made largely on price?”

The good news is that many of us already support local growers like The New Farm, and that isn’t going to change. If nothing else this crisis is truly driving home important lessons about how our food systems work, and this knowledge will only make us better consumers.

Buy local like it’s your job. Because right now, it kind of is.



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