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Agriculture

New immigration pilot will offer residency to some migrant farm-workers

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OTTAWA — A new three-year immigration experiment that will give migrant workers a path to permanent residency in Canada is getting a thumbs-up from industry but a thumbs-down from migrant rights groups.

Over the last several years, industries such as meat cutting and processing and mushroom farming have relied on seasonal temporary foreign workers due to labour shortages, even though the work is not seasonal.

A new pilot program announced on Friday aims to attract and retain migrant workers by giving them an opportunity to become permanent residents.

Currently, migrant farm workers who come to Canada through the program for seasonal agricultural workers are only given limited-term work permits and do not have a pathway to permanent residency.

Temporary foreign farm workers who are eligible for this new pilot will be able to apply for permanent residency after 12 months and, if they’re approved, will also be allowed to bring their families to Canada.

Industry groups are applauding the new program, which they say is badly needed to address a lack of people available or willing to work on farms and in food-processing plants.

A study by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council released last month found farmers across Canada lost $2.9 billion in sales due to unfilled job vacancies. The study also found the situation has improved, thanks to access to migrant workers and new technologies, but Canadian farms and agri-food plants are still dealing with 16,500 vacancies.

Ryan Koeslag, executive vice president of the Canadian Mushroom Growers Association, said Friday he is pleased to see the federal government willing to adapt its immigration policies to benefit certain agriculture producers.

“For the last decade or more, mushroom growers and other farmers, have fought for immigration access for our sector’s farm workers employed in year-round jobs,” said Ryan Koeslag, executive vice president of the Canadian Mushroom Growers Association.

But Chris Ramsaroop, spokesperson for the group Justice for Migrant Workers, said the access to permanent residency will only apply to those who take part in this narrow pilot program and will continue to be unavailable to the thousands of migrant farm-workers who arrive through the seasonal agriculture workers program.

“We’re dividing agricultural workers based on which industries are more deserving than others,” he said, noting migrant workers who have already been working in Canada in meat production or mushroom plants will have easier access to this program than fruit- or vegetable-farm workers.

Ramsaroop says migrant groups continue to call on the government to offer all temporary foreign workers permanent status upon arrival in Canada.

A maximum of 2,750 principal applicants, plus family members, will be accepted for processing each year during the three-year pilot. Applications are to be accepted beginning in 2020.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press




Agriculture

Alberta removing tax exemption for commercial cannabis producers

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EDMONTON — Municipalities in Alberta are to get a new source of revenue next year when commercial cannabis producers start paying property taxes.

Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu says cannabis growers will no longer be classified as agricultural businesses and so won’t qualify for a tax exemption.

The change is to come into effect in the 2020 tax year.

Madu made the announcement at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall convention in Edmonton.

Municipal assessors will be responsible for market-value assessments and the government isn’t saying how much additional revenue is expected.

The tax change does not apply to greenhouse operations or industrial hemp cultivation.

Madu said Alberta’s current tax regulations don’t adequately address cannabis production, which doesn’t really fall under the traditional definition of agriculture.

“Cannabis production facilities are large industrial operations and like any other local businesses, they need to pay for municipal services that they use,” Madu told the convention. “Beginning next year, you will be able to collect taxes on these properties.”

Rural municipalities president Al Kemmere said the group welcomes the announcement.

“We’ve been asking the government to put cannabis-production facilities on equal footing with other industrial businesses since legalization. I’m glad the government listened to our concerns and acted swiftly.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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Producers have more than weather on their minds, FCC survey shows

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From Farm Credit Canada

Producers have more than weather on their minds, FCC survey shows

 

Regina, Saskatchewan, November 12, 2019 – Canadian producers are thinking well beyond weather conditions, commodity prices and yields when it comes to weighing their risks, according to a recent Farm Credit Canada (FCC) survey.

While production-related risks – such as weather, pests and disease – are still very much top of mind in every sector of Canadian agriculture, producers are also keenly aware of risks related to marketing, financial and human resources (matters involving employees, partners and family).

“Modern farming involves so much more than making decisions around production,” said Craig Klemmer, FCC’s principal agricultural economist. “It means keeping tabs on markets; ensuring your business can withstand sudden changes in commodity prices or economic conditions; and managing human resources while maintaining a safe work environment.”

The survey, conducted from July 11-15, showed a majority of farm operators reported a high level of concern for marketing (67 per cent of respondents), production (60 per cent) and financial (53 per cent) risks. Human resources and legal risks were less of a concern at 31 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively.

Looking at risk through the lens of individual sectors, marketing risks were most prominent among beef and grains/oilseed sector producers at 74 per cent, followed by the fruit/vegetable/greenhouse sector at 58 per cent and the supply managed sectors of dairy and poultry at 55 per cent and 53 per cent, respectively. Price and market access were among the top concerns.

Financial risk ranked highest among dairy, hog, cattle and other livestock producers, in the mid-50-per-cent range, and was slightly lower for the grains/oilseed and fruit/vegetable/greenhouse sectors. Financial risk was significantly less of a concern for poultry producers at 36 per cent.

Ensuring there is sufficient working capital was the most prominent financial concern across all sectors, followed by unfavourable changes in interest rates and meeting debt payment obligations. Almost 65 per cent of the respondents identified insufficient working capital as a risk to their operation. Out of this group, about 45 per cent indicated relying on off-farm income to mitigate this financial risk.

Transitioning farm operations to the next generation was identified as a concern for 44 per cent of respondents, with about half of those respondents indicating they have a succession plan. Transition concerns were the most prominent among grains/oilseeds and dairy producers, while workplace safety was a common concern among all sectors.

The survey also explored a variety of production-related risks. Concerns about the weather were most prominent in grains/oilseeds and beef sectors, while concerns related to pests and disease were mostly on the minds of poultry producers.

“The good news is most producers are in a solid financial position to withstand short-term impacts on their business,” Klemmer said. “We encourage producers to have a risk management plan that pulls together mitigation strategies, as well as identifies key risks and available solutions to manage these risks before they emerge.”

The survey involved 1,363 producers considered key decision makers for their operations. Based on the sample size, the survey has a margin of error plus/minus 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

By sharing agriculture survey results, FCC provides solid insights and expertise to help those in the business of agriculture achieve their goals. For more information and insights on Canadian agriculture, visit the FCC Ag Economics blog post at fcc.ca/AgEconomics. To learn more about the FCC Vision Panel, visit www.fccvision.ca.

FCC is Canada’s leading agriculture lender, with a healthy loan portfolio of more than $36 billion. Our employees are dedicated to the future of Canadian agriculture and its role in feeding an ever-growing world. We provide flexible, competitively priced financing, management software, information and knowledge specifically designed for the agriculture and agri-food industry. As a self-sustaining Crown corporation, our profits are reinvested back into the agriculture and food industry we serve and the communities where our customers and employees live and work while providing an appropriate return to our shareholder. Visit fcc.ca or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and on Twitter @FCCagriculture.

 

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