The meat industry calls for support for the rural economy

June 11, 2024

Recent changes to foreign worker regulations by the Government of Canada are having a disproportionate impact on the Canadian agricultural economy, according to a recent announcement from the Canadian Meat Council (CMC).

National organizations representing Canada’s meat industry are calling on the federal government to reconsider recent changes and take action to keep food prices affordable while supporting rural communities.

On May 1, producers and processors faced significant changes. Not only has the 30% limit on temporary foreign workers been reduced, but the deadline for carrying out labor market impact assessments (LMIAs) has also been shortened. These changes were made without industry consultation and are already impacting productivity, competitiveness and food production levels in Canada.

Temporary foreign workers, who make up just nine percent of the population in the temporary area, are essential to fill roles in processing plants, supply chains and barns.

CMC, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), the National Cattlemen’s Association (NCFA) and the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) are calling on the government to change course. Their message is clear: temporary foreign workers are not a problem; are part of the solution. By restoring the Workforce Solutions Action Plan, the government can help alleviate labor shortages and ensure food affordability for all Canadians.

Launched in 2022, the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Temporary Worker Solutions Action Plan was designed to address the industry’s critical labor shortage. The adjustments included ending the restriction on the number of low-paid jobs for seasonal employers, extending the maximum duration of seasonal jobs and extending the validity period of labor market impact assessments.

Nathan Phinney, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), says beef producers are an integral part of Canada’s rural economy and changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program will increase pressure on labor market challenges.

“A reliable supply chain is essential to our economic sustainability and ability to produce for Canadians and consumers around the world,” says Phinney. “Our trading partners need consistent, consistent supplies any disruption could impact our ability to compete globally while maintaining low costs at home.”

As the meat sector calls for change, organizations are calling on the Canadian government to recognize the critical role that temporary foreign workers play in supporting rural communities. By reversing course and restoring the Workforce Solutions Action Plan, they can ensure affordable food prices and protect the backbone of Canada’s economy.

Agriculture plays a key role in Canada’s economy, contributing almost 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Additionally, the sector provides 1 in 9 jobs in the Canadian economy.