Government of Canada invests in the agriculture and agri-food sector to address labour demands

News release

February 15, 2023   Ottawa, Ontario          Employment and Social Development Canada

Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector continues to be among the sectors most affected by the pandemic, which caused plant closures, market fluctuations and supply chain delays. The significant shortage and loss of skilled labour as a result of these pressures needs to be addressed urgently. This is why the Government of Canada is investing to help resolve the current workforce challenges and to advance long-term solutions for the farming and food processing industries.

Today, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, on behalf of Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, announced that the Government of Canada is investing over $19.7 million for two agriculture and agri-food projects under the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program (SWSP). The announcement comes as Canada’s Agriculture Day is celebrated across the country.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council is receiving an investment of just over $12 million for their Growing the Agriculture Workforce of the Future: Cultivating Canada’s Post-Pandemic Recovery Project. This project will help to address human resource shortages in Canada’s agriculture sector. By identifying skills most in need, providing innovative and targeted training programs to 1,175 employers and employees and by setting sector-wide standards for recruiting and retention, this project strives to meet the current and future demands of the agriculture industry. 

In addition, Food Processing Skills Canada is receiving $7.7 million for their Achieving our Workforce Destination: Qualified People, Successful Careers & Competitive Business Project. This project will offer training programs to 1,250 Canadians in the food and beverage processing sector. It will also develop resources, tools and certifications for supervisors and employees to help improve retention in the industry. The project will aim to engage up to 65% of participants from equity-deserving groups. 

First announced in Budget 2021, the SWSP helps key sectors of the economy to implement solutions that address current and emerging workforce needs by funding organizations to deliver sectoral projects that focus on a range of industry-driven activities, including training and reskilling workers, and helping employers retain and attract a skilled and diverse workforce. It also supports equity-deserving groups by promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce and providing wrap-around supports as needed to those facing barriers to participation.


“Our agriculture and agri-food sector has always been essential to Canada’s food security and economy. The success of this sector depends on our ability to recruit and retain a thriving and diverse workforce. Organizations like the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council and Food Processing Skills Canada are making sure we’re helping the sector meet post pandemic demand and ensuring Canada’s long term food security.”

 – The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

“The future of the agriculture and agri-food sectors is contingent on having a skilled and reliable workforce. Over these past few years in particular, Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector has faced significant challenges in acquiring workers and maintaining stability. These two very important projects will strengthen this crucial sector for generations to come.”

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

“Growing chronic labour shortages impact the success and viability of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry. This viability is essential not only because of the strong economic contribution but also because Canadian agriculture and agri-food producers provide food to Canadians and the globe. The funding announced today will allow CAHRC to action priorities identified by industry in the National Workforce Strategic Plan right away and provide new and innovative training, tools and resources to attract and retain workers in the industry.”

– Paul Glenn, Chair of the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council.

“Ensuring a highly competitive Canadian food and beverage manufacturing industry demands skilled individuals and exceptional workplaces - Achieving Our Workforce Destination will deliver on both. Thank you to the Government of Canada for investing in an industry that offers exciting career and business opportunities for Canadians and recent immigrants.”

–Jennefer Griffith, Executive Director, Food Processing Skills Canada

Quick facts

  • First announced in Budget 2021, the new Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program will help workers and employers by supporting solutions to address current and emerging workforce needs in key sectors, including:

    • building talent for Canada’s clean economy;
    • supporting needs of workers and employers hardest hit by the pandemic; and
    • addressing challenges faced by in-demand healthcare occupations.
  • Based on data from the Labour Force Survey in December 2022:

    • 260,600 Canadians were working in the agriculture and agri-food sector, down 37,200 (–12.5%) compared to pre-pandemic numbers (February 2020).
    • The industry faces ongoing pressures from population aging and fewer older individuals returning to work in agriculture after the pandemic.
    • This sector’s chronic labour shortage is forecasted to grow from 63,000 to as many as 123,000 workers by 2029.
  • Agriculture and Agri-food Canada with support from Employment and Social Development Canada is currently developing a National Agricultural Labour Strategy. The strategy will seek to address chronic workforce challenges and build short- and long-term solutions to attract a skilled workforce to the agriculture and agri-food sector. 

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Tara Beauport
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

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Employment and Social Development Canada

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