L’ORIGNAL, Ontario: The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of supporting the agri-food sector’s labour market needs and strengthening Canada’s food supply system. One key to success for Canadian farmers and food processors is their ability to recruit and retain a skilled workforce.
Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today announced the extension of the Agri-Food Pilot, which will now run until May 14, 2025. Launched in May 2020, the pilot helps facilitate the transition of experienced workers in agricultural and food industries to permanent residence in Canada.
To support employers and candidates, the Minister also announced the removal of the annual occupational caps, or the limits for how many candidates can apply for a specific occupation under the pilot. Removing these limits will provide an opportunity for more eligible candidates to apply. By the end of the year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) intends to introduce new changes to the pilot in stages, including
• expanding open work permit access to family members of all participants in the Agri-Food Pilot—regardless of the participant’s job skill level
• allowing unions to attest to a candidate’s work experience, as an alternative to employer reference letters
• giving applicants residing in Canada the option to either meet the job offer requirement, including the median wage requirement for the job offer, or the education requirement, including educational credential assessment verification
• accepting work experience gained under an open work permit for vulnerable workers, giving more workers an opportunity to qualify
Together, these changes are a significant step in meeting the longstanding labour market needs of employers in the meat processing, mushroom, greenhouse crop production and livestock-raising industries by helping fill ongoing labour needs with full-time, year-round employees. They also provide wider support to applicants and their family members, reduce barriers and vulnerability for candidates, and expand the pathway to permanent residence for experienced workers in these industries.
The Agri-Food Pilot complements Canada’s existing suite of economic immigration programs, which includes the Atlantic Immigration Program, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the caregivers pilots, the Global Skills Strategy, Express Entry, and the Provincial Nominee Program. It continues to promote the skills and labour required in the agriculture and agri-food sector while also providing an opportunity for these workers to settle in Canada.
Minister Sean Fraser said: “Our farmers and food processors depend on the steady arrival of foreign workers so that planting, harvesting and food processing activities can take place throughout the year, and they need our continued support to attract and retain these talented workers. Extending the Agri-Food Pilot helps these sectors find the employees they need, so we can be confident that our food security.”
Francis Drouin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Member of Parliament for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, said: “This announcement allows us to keep building on the work we have done to ensure our agriculture and agri-food sector can count on the help of skilled workers. The Agri-Food Pilot is a concrete action that expands immigration pathways for experienced workers, and addresses ongoing agricultural labour challenges.”
Bea Bruske, President, Canadian Labour Congress, said: “The CLC is pleased that the Agri-Food Pilot will be extended for another year. We have fought hard for migrant workers, asking the government to create more opportunities for permanent residency for migrants, especially for low-wage migrants. The promise of changes to the pilot recognizes the role of unions, and is a good step forward.”
Keith Currie, President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said: “One of the most significant challenges facing the agriculture sector in Canada is labour and skills shortages. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is happy to see the Agri-Food Pilot extended to 2025. We need programs that support the long-term needs of the agri–food sector. We are pleased to see some greater flexibility in the program and look forward to working with the government.”
Ryan Koeslag, Executive Director, Mushrooms Canad, said: “Mushroom farms are a people business. We are happy to welcome our farm workers permanently, so our workers can fulfill their dreams and support their families, while making a positive contribution to our Canadian economy and our communities.”
Christopher White, President and CEO, Canadian Meat Council, said: “The meat processing sector requires skilled, year-round labour to put Canadian meat products on grocery store shelves. Our members invest in their workforce, and we are therefore very pleased with the measures announced today, which will help us retain these valued individuals.”
• In 2021, Canada exported nearly $82.2 billion in agriculture and food products, including raw agricultural materials, fish and seafood, and processed foods.
• Canada is the fifth-largest exporter of agri-food and seafood in the world, exporting to over 200 countries in 2021. In the same year, the agri-food system provided one in nine jobs in Canada and employed 2.1 million people.
• A total of 2,750 principal applicants can be processed under the pilot annually.
• Occupations and industries eligible under the pilot:
• retail butchers
• industrial butchers
• farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
• food processing labourers
• farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
• general farm workers
• harvesting labourers
• farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers.