AGRI LMI

AGRI LMI is a program focused on assessing the current agricultural labour market, projecting the future supply and demand for agricultural workers, and recommending potential solutions to the sector's labour issues.

Overview

AgriLMI is a program focused on assessing the current agricultural labour market, projecting the future supply and demand for agricultural workers, and recommending potential solutions to the sector’s labour issues.

CAHRC developed this program to address significant labour challenges that threaten the growth potential of Canada’s agriculture sector.

The AgriLMI program launched a three-year labour market initiative (LMI) in 2015 that examined the labour market in Canada’s agriculture sector and included data-driven projections into 2025.

The LMI was updated with new data in 2019 and now includes projections into 2029. This information can be accessed through a series of national, provincial, and commodity-specific reports, fact sheets and data dashboards available on this site.

Fast Facts

Agriculture is a big part of Canada’s economy. In 2017, primary agriculture contributed $62 billion in total sales to the Canadian economy, and Canada’s agriculture and agri-food system accounted for:

  • 2.3 million jobs in Canada – 1 in 8 jobs!
  • $112 billion in product sales
  • 6.7% of the GDP

But the agriculture sector faces big labour challenges:

  • 16,500 jobs could not be filled in 2017
  • 47% of agricultural producers could not find enough workers, causing stress, production delays, lost sales, and delays or cancellations for farm expansions or upgrades.
  • 34% of employers reported that no Canadians applied for jobs on their farms
  • $2.9 billion in sales were lost because jobs went unfilled

Those labour challenges will get worse in the future:

  • Older workforce: 4X as many workers aged 65+ 
  • 1 in 4 workers retiring by 2025
  • 200,000 fewer young people entering agriculture by 2025

National Data

Canada’s agriculture sector is incredibly diverse. From British Columbia’s fisheries to Saskatchewan’s grain fields to the dairies of Newfoundland and Labrador, the sector comprises very different industries, commodities, regions, and work environments.

But they all experience challenges when it comes to finding the workers they need to thrive. And these challenges are becoming more acute as the global market for Canadian agricultural products rapidly expands. As the demand for Between 2007 and 2017, Canadian farmers saw the agricultural labour gap double; by 2029, it’s expected to double again.

In fact, no other sector in Canada faces as many labour challenges as the agriculture sector, and without a clear understanding of the underlying issues and their potential solutions, this vital part of the Canadian economy will not reach its potential in the years ahead.

The LMI national report examines the current and future impact of these challenges on producers across Canada, and identifies solutions with the potential to strengthen the workforce and support the sector’s continued growth.

Provincial Data

Canada’s agriculture sector plays a role in every province’s economy, but differences in the mix of commodities, the population trends, and other factors create unique labour challenges for each one. For example:

  • Alberta’s agricultural employers struggle to compete for labour with the province’s high-paying natural resources sector.
  • In Prince Edward Island, agricultural employers are challenged by the highest voluntary turnover rates of any province.
  • Ontario has the heaviest reliance on foreign agricultural workers, which makes it vulnerable to policy changes.

While no two provinces have the same profile, all face significant agricultural labour challenges today and in the years ahead. Learn more by accessing fact sheets and reports for Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan in the document library.

Visit the interactive data dashboard below for detailed province-by-province data sets.

Commodity Data

Employers in every commodity area face unique challenges and advantages when it comes to attracting and retaining the skilled workers they need to thrive. For example:

  • The dairy industry offers stable, year-round employment, but has difficulty finding workers with the skills and experience required.
  • The greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture industry struggles to find domestic workers because the work is physically strenuous and has highly variable hours.
  • Aquaculture operations tend to be located in rural areas where populations are dwindling and the general workforce is shrinking. 
  • While the issues are different for every commodity area, they all face significant labour challenges today and in the years ahead.

Visit the document library to learn more about the specific impact of these challenges on each of Canada's 11 commodity areas: apiculture, aquaculture, beef, dairy, field fruit and vegetable, grain and oilseed, greenhouse, nursery and floriculture, poultry and egg, sheep and goat, swine, and tree fruit and vine.

Visit the interactive data dashboard below for detailed commodity-by-commodity data sets.

Apiculture

Apiculture, or the beekeeping industry, includes operations that are primarily engaged in raising bees, collecting and gathering honey, and performing other beekeeping activities. The industry has a very strong outlook, but labour challenges could prevent it from reaching production targets and achieving its potential.

In 2018, these labour shortages cost the industry $12 million, or 6% of sales, and beekeepers reported higher levels of concern about having to delay production or expansion plans because of a lack of labour. Remote locations, physically strenuous work, variable hours, and seasonality have a greater impact on recruitment and retention for apiculture than for others in the sector.

With 57% of beekeepers expecting employment to rise on their farms over the next five years, the industry must address its labour issues in order to reach its growth potential.

For more information, visit the document library.

Aquaculture

Canada’s aquaculture industry produces a wide array of seafood, with a focus on salmon, mussels, oysters, and trout. While it’s one of the smaller agriculture industries, it is also one of the fastest growing, with output expected to increase by an average of 3.9% per year to meet a strong export market and a growing global demand.

However, aquaculture producers face growing challenges in finding enough workers. In 2017, nearly three-quarters of aquaculture producers (63%) reported being unable to find enough workers, and those labour shortages cost the industry $34 million.

The rural location of most aquaculture operations is a key challenge in recruiting and retaining workers. The industry also lacks access to foreign workers through temporary and seasonal work programs because aquaculture production isn’t on the National Commodities list.

Finding ways to address these challenges will enable producers to profit from the growing market for Canada’s aquaculture products.

For more information, visit the document library.

Beef

The beef industry includes operations that primarily raise and finish cattle, including feedlots. It employs 13% of Canada’s agricultural workforce, making it one of the agriculture sector’s largest employers.

There’s growing global demand for beef products, but dwindling labour supply is putting the industry’s growth potential at risk.

While the number of beef farms and the demand for labour has declined over the past decade, in 2017, the beef industry was still unable to fill 1,700 jobs with available domestic labour. This shortage cost the industry $334 million.

By 2029, this labour gap is expected to widen even further, with more than 14,000 jobs at risk of going unfilled. If the beef industry can’t find ways to enhance recruitment and retention, the labour shortage will restrict the growth of this important industry.

For more information, visit the document library.

Dairy

Canada’s dairy industry includes operations that primarily milk dairy cattle. Because it relies on the domestic market and has limited exposure to foreign markets for its products, this industry has a very stable production outlook.

The dairy industry is also less affected by worker shortages than other agricultural industries. Gains in productivity have enabled dairy farmers to meet production targets with fewer workers, and since 2007, the industry’s demand for labour has fallen by 2.9% per year, on average. As a result of productivity gains and stable production trends, the labour gap for this industry is projected to shrink between now and 2029.

However, the industry still faces labour challenges. In 2017, 42% of dairy producers were unable to find enough skilled workers, and 1,200 dairy jobs went unfilled, costing the industry $148 million or 2.2% of sales.

For more information, visit the document library.

Field Fruit and Vegetable

The field fruit and vegetable industry, which includes farms that produce root vegetables, melons, sweet corn, tomatoes, and peppers, is a significant agricultural employer with substantial labour challenges.

Jobs tend to be labour intensive and highly seasonal, which makes it difficult to attract and retain workers, and the industry has one of the largest labour gaps in the agriculture sector, second only to the tree fruit and vine industry. It relies heavily on foreign labour, and in 2017, 43% of its workforce was foreign at the seasonal peak. Despite this reliance, the industry was unable to fill 1,500 jobs, which cost it $403 million.

Unless the industry’s labour challenges can be addressed, its stability will be increasingly challenged by a growing dependence on unpredictable foreign labour. By 2029, the number of jobs that can’t be filled by domestic workers will rise to 53%, or 14,500 jobs, which is the second largest proportion of any agricultural commodity.

For more information, visit the document library.

Grain and Oilseed

One of Canada’s largest agricultural employers, the grain and oilseed industry includes farms that produce a wide variety of crops, with wheat, canola, soybeans, and feed corn being key among them.

Between 2007 and 2017, strong crop yields and a shift away from animal production and toward grain and oilseed products resulted in an average growth in output of 5% per year, which is the strongest growth performance of any agriculture industry. Combined with even higher increases in productivity of 6.5% per year in that time period, the grain and oilseed workforce declined slightly in the past ten years. Even so, grain and oilseed producers were unable to fill 2,000 jobs in 2017. This cost the industry $594 million, which was the greatest loss of any agricultural industry.

By 2029, the industry’s labour gap is expected to increase 500%, with 10,600 jobs potentially going unfilled as a result of domestic labour shortages. That number is equivalent to one-quarter of the total workforce required, a labour shortfall that could serious impede the industry’s ability to reach its potential.

For more information, visit the document library.

Greenhouse, Nursery, and Floriculture

The greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture industry produces nursery crops, trees, flowers, ornamental plants, and crops of any kind grown under cover.

The industry employs 15% of the agricultural workforce, making it the largest employer in Canada’s agriculture sector. Because the work tends to be physically demanding and seasonal, this industry has difficulty retaining domestic workers and a high reliance on foreign workers, who account for 40% of the workforce.

In 2017, worker shortages resulted in 2,800 jobs going unfilled, which cost the industry $103 million. As the number of domestic workers shrinks, these losses are expected to increase considerably. By 2029, as many as 29,900 jobs are at risk of going unfilled due to a lack of domestic labour, which could seriously affect the industry’s ability to reach its production potential.

For more information, visit the document library.

Poultry and Egg

The poultry and egg industry includes operations that primarily engage in breeding, hatching, and raising poultry for meat or egg production.

The industry has one of the agriculture sector’s most balanced labour markets and faces fewer challenges than other industries in the sector. In 2017, it employed 14,500 people and had 350 unfilled jobs. These vacancies cost farmers $29 million, which represents just 0.7% of sales.

However, the industry faces bigger labour challenges in the near future. While the poultry and egg industry has less difficulty attracting workers than other, more seasonal industries in the sector, industry employers report greater retention challenges and above-average turnover rates.

The industry is also expected to experience greater labour shortages in future, with nearly 2,400 jobs at risk of going unfilled by 2029.

For more information, visit the document library.

Sheep and Goat

The sheep and goat industry includes operations primarily engaged in raising sheep and goats and feeding or fattening lambs.

Since 2006, the number of farms has declined and the workforce has shrunk by more than a third. It’s currently the smallest employer in the Canadian agriculture sector, with just 3,200 workers.

In 2017, the industry was unable to fill 80 jobs, and these shortages cost the industry $4 million, which represents more than 2.4% of sales.

Looking ahead to 2029, the industry’s labour gap is expected to widen further as the supply of domestic labour shrinks, in large part due to a high retirement rate.

If the industry can’t find additional labour sources by 2029, nearly one in 10 jobs could be at risk of going unfilled.

For more information, visit the document library.

Swine

The swine industry includes operations that primarily raise hogs and pigs. Since 2007, the number of farms has shrunk by 42% and its workforce has shrunk by 15% as the market for pork products softened.

Despite its reduced size, the industry faces challenges in finding enough workers. In 2017, it was unable to fill 150 jobs, costing the industry $189 million.

These labour challenges are expected to intensify between now and 2029 as the global demand for pork products rises. To meet output targets, the industry will need to employ 7,300 workers by 2029. However, the domestic labour pool is expected to shrink during this time, which means that the number of jobs at risk of going unfilled could rise as high as 900. This would significantly impact the industry’s ability to meet the global market demand for its products.

For more information, visit the document library.

Tree Fruit and Vine

The tree fruit and vine industry includes farms that produce tree fruits (such as apples and peaches), tree nuts (such as walnuts and hazelnuts), berries, and vineyards.

A significant employer, the industry employs 23,900 workers (7% of Canada’s agricultural workforce).

In 2017, half of the jobs in the tree fruit and vine industry couldn’t be filled with domestic workers. The industry relied heavily on foreign workers to help fill this sizable labour gap; more than half of all jobs (51%) was filled by a foreign worker during the seasonal peak.

While the industry is expected to see one of agriculture’s strongest productivity growth trends between now and 2029, its domestic labour supply will shrink by 1,100 workers over the same period.

Unless the industry can recruit more domestic workers and maintain access to foreign workers, it will be unable to reach its growing potential.

For more information, visit the document library.

LMI Framework

The LMI (Labour Market Information) framework helps job seekers, employers, and other sector stakeholders see the opportunities and challenges for Ontario's agricultural labour market more clearly. 

The agriculture and food processing sectors are the economic engines of Ontario. According to 2019 figures, primary agriculture and food processing accounted for 2.9 per cent of total GDP in the province, while 2018 data indicates that it employed 202,000 domestic residents.
 
Given the importance of these sectors, there is a need for relevant, standardized, and timely labour market information. Unfortunately, a lack of standardization in the way the sector and the occupations available in it are defined has made this information confusing to job seekers and employers and difficult for other sector stakeholders to understand and use.

A framework for Ontario's agricultural labour market

The LMI Framework was developed to address this problem. It was developed through a review of existing sources of labour market information, the identification of gaps in the knowledge about the labour market, and the development of a framework of common terminology and best practices that can be applied universally to primary agriculture and food processing as well as different sub-sectors and regions. 
 
The framework can be used by government, association policy advisors, and labour economists who want to understand and forecast the sector's labour needs more accurately. It can be used to clarify existing labour market information and generate new data that is consistent, standardized, and supportive of a more comprehensive understanding of the labour market and the activities involved in the sector. 
 
By bringing greater consistency to the way the labour market is defined, the framework will provide greater clarity to job seekers and food processing employers who need to understand where the jobs are and what skills are needed to work in the sector. 
 
Download the LMI Framework for Agriculture and Food Processing in Ontario.

The LMI framework for Ontario's agri-food sector was developed by CAHRC through the Canadian Agriculture Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative as a part of the Labour Productivity Challenges project.

For agricultural associations

As part of the Labour Productivity Challenges initiative, the CAHRC has developed a Workforce Action Plan Toolkit to help agricultural associations apply the framework to their own sub-sector workforce action plans.

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Skills & Occupations Gap Report

The Ontario Agriculture and Food Processing Skills & Occupations Gap Report is part of the Strategy for Increasing Labour Productivity in the Agriculture and Food Processing Sectors funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Although developed for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), this strategy is relevant to all agriculture and food processing industries across the country to manage workforce challenges.

The Skills & Occupations Gap Report uncovers some of the critical skills and occupation gaps that exist across the agriculture and food processing sales and services industries. Through extensive consultation with industry stakeholders, it highlights priority workforce issues, key trends across multiple industries and barriers to skill development. The report provides an overview of emerging skills that will be needed in the coming decade to build and grow a workforce for the future. It also proposes actions that sectors can take to support training current and future workers.

The Skills & Occupations Gap Report was developed to provide needed resource information for the Grow the Future Action Plan Guide to assist any industry within the agriculture and food processing sectors develop action plans for addressing labour shortages. Ultimately, these action plans can help the industry to secure a highly-skilled workforce and grow the industry for the years to come.