Mushrooms Canada calls on federal leaders to allow foreign workers to stay, immigrate to Canada

HARRISTON – Mushrooms Canada has made a plea to the federal government to allow foreign agricultural workers the chance to stay in Canada and immigrate.

“We need more people working in agriculture in rural Canada,” said Ryan Koeslag, executive vice-president of Mushrooms Canada. “The labour shortage for Canadian agriculture is massive and continues to grow. Mushroom farms have a 20 per cent job vacancy rate. To grow food in rural Canada, we need to fill this labour gap.”

Mushrooms Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to the production and marketing of fresh mushrooms in Canada, previously made this ask of the government in 2019 during the federal election campaign. According to Mushrooms Canada, the Canadian government has not done enough to help workers stay on Canadian farms.

According to the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, there were 16,500 job vacancies on Canadian farms in 2018, causing $2.9 billion in lost sales to the Canadian economy. The sector’s labour gap is forecast to nearly double, reaching a potential shortage of 123,000 people by 2029. For mushrooms, the same labour survey showed a job vacancy rate approaching 20 per cent.

Surveys also show that the labour shortage has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sept. 1, Mushrooms Canada released an election package entitled “Mushrooms Canada Election 2021 Recommendations: Let Our Agriculture Foreign Workers Stay.” The video and report were distributed to all political parties, and Mushrooms Canada has asked all parties to create a labour strategy and immigration policy that makes sense so Canada can begin to fill the labour gap with a made in Canada approach to farmworker immigration that works for workers and farms.

“No matter who is elected, food made in Canada needs to be prioritized, and the farm labour crisis will need to be addressed,” said Koeslag. “We believe work in rural Canada has value. Hard work on the farm has value. We want that recognized and the issues our farms and our workers need to be addressed.

“When Canadians don’t apply for these year-round farm jobs, we want these workers who are interested in agriculture – who have a job from day one of arrival through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program – to have a chance to stay and immigrate.”

A press release from Mushrooms Canada states that Canadian agriculture contributed $111 billion per year – or $304 million per day – to the economy, more than six per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). The mushroom sector contributes nearly $1 billion per year to the economy, increasing by $50 million in 2020.

“We believe international farm workers have value and are part of our Canadian agriculture workforce,” said Janet Krayden, workforce expert with Mushrooms Canada. “When Canadians do not apply, we need to allow them to stay through an immigration program, such as the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot.”

Krayden added that the pilot needs to be different than other immigration programs, “or it is more of the same for the workers without access to immigration.”

“The workers report to us that there is a fundamental misalignment and misunderstanding of their skills, experience, and they are called ‘lower-skilled.’ We strongly disagree with how they are being treated by the Federal Government within these programs,” she said. “Removing immigration obstacles would allow the farms to recruit people interested in agriculture to stay so these farm workers who are employed in good jobs with competitive wages can build new lives in Canada.”

Currently, more than 900 international workers are employed on mushroom farms. According to surveys, approximately 300 of those workers across Canada would like the chance to stay.

“Much research has been conducted. It is time to move forward with action. The farms want to support the workers to build their dreams in Canada. There is no risk in letting these farm workers stay and immigrate,” said Koeslag. “It is time to move forward with an agriculture labour strategy that will give farm and food workers a chance so our local food made in Canada has a chance.”

The full report from Mushrooms Canada can be found online at