Governments Helping Workers Start Careers in the Agri-food Sector

News release

Canada and Ontario investing $4 million in new pilot projects to address food processing labour shortages

February 24, 2021 – Toronto, Ontario  –  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing up to $4 million to help build a strong and competitive agri-food workforce that will ensure people can continue to access the safe and healthy food grown and made in Ontario.

Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the new Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative will support pilot projects that help the sector attract, support and retain workers by developing solutions that enable businesses to better meet the needs of employees.

Examples of pilot projects that could be eligible for funding include:

  • transportation initiatives for employees to commute to the job site
  • childcare options while parents are at work
  • language proficiency solutions for workers with English as a second language
  • Improving workspace environments to help retain employees.

Pilot projects may be eligible for up to 70 per cent of approved expenses to a maximum of $80,000 for individual businesses or up to $200,000 for a collaboration between two or more businesses.  The new Ontario Agri-Careers Support will provide funding support for pilot projects undertaken by food processing businesses with more than 100 employees.

The data collected from these pilots will be compiled into a report by the Agricultural Adaptation Council, and shared with Ontario agri-food processors to help identify successful programs that may be utilized in their individual operations with the aim to address long-term labour challenges.

The Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative builds on the $1.5 million intake announced last October and the $22 million Agri-tech Innovation cost-share program launched last April, and is part of the of the province’s agri-food labour support to build a competitive and skilled agri-food workforce. 


“There are countless quality and dynamic job opportunities for those looking for rewarding careers in agriculture. Our government will continue to support initiatives that help Ontario’s food sector retain skilled workers and operate under the best possible conditions to continue providing nutritious, safe, high-quality foods to Canadians and a growing global population."

-   The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to address the labour challenges in our agri-food sector. We are supporting projects that will make it easier for workers to start and continue their careers in the agri-food sector. These projects will help provide concrete solutions to ensure the sector have the workers they need to keep the province’s food supply chain safe and strong.”

-   Lisa Thompson, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister

“There is a need for more workers in the agri-foods sector and our government is committed to helping people start these well-paying and meaningful careers. That is why we are investing in programs that give employers the ability to retain workers and grow their business. These programs offer rewarding work in communities across our province and help solve our labour shortage.”

-   Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development

“Today’s shared investment will go a long way to supporting a stable workforce of skilled and dedicated workers in Ontario’s food and beverage sector. The Government of Canada continues to invest in employment, to support a resilient food supply chain and a strong Canadian agriculture sector.”

-   James Maloney, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke – Lakeshore, Ontario

“This is great news for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and for the many agri-businesses that call Etobicoke-Lakeshore home. This investment will provide the necessary tools and training to connect workers to rewarding careers, reaffirming our government’s commitment to build a stronger economy.”

-   Christine Hogarth, MPP for Etobicoke – Lakeshore

"As the province's largest manufacturing sector by employment, it's vital that the food and beverage processing sector continues to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce,” said Chris Conway, CEO of Food and Beverage Ontario. “By placing an even stronger priority on the needs of the industry’s workforce, we can continue to deliver quality food to people in Ontario and around the globe." 

-   Chris Conway, CEO of Food and Beverage Ontario

“Addressing labour shortages is the top priority for Ontario’s food processing sector. Through the Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative, we are excited to see the innovative pilot projects that will be initiated to strengthen the labour force and ensure continued success and growth for this important sector of Ontario’s economy.”

-   Doug Alexander, Chair of the Agricultural Adaptation Council

Quick facts

  • The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) estimates an agri-food workforce shortfall of 123,000 by 2029 in Canada. Ontario is expected to represent the largest share of the shortfall.

  • Applications for the new cost-share intake will be accepted starting on March 3, 2022. Approved projects must be completed by September 30, 2022.

  • The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion commitment by Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments that supports Canada's agri-food and agri-products sectors. This includes a $2 billion commitment that is cost-shared 60 per cent federally and 40 per cent provincially/territorially for programs that are designed and delivered by provinces and territories. 

Associated links


Marianne Dandurand
Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Office of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
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Jack Sullivan
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