SASKATOON, May 5, 2014 /CNW/ - While controversy embraces the service sector's involvement in the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, a business alliance of farmers is promoting its success for agriculture.
Farmers of North America (FNA) is a private farm business alliance of 10,000 farmers across Canada.
In October of last year, FNA launched a program working with a registered recruiting agency and a fully certified immigration consultant to make it easier for farmers to use the Temporary Foreign Worker program. The first worker approved under the FNA program landed recently in Saskatoon.
Vern Schultz, a grain farmer from Unity, Saskatchewan, was pleased to greet his new employee.
Schultz said trying to get qualified workers on his farm has been a costly and bureaucratic burden.
"Labour is our biggest hurdle. We've struggled for five years to find local people to work for us. We put out ads online. We tried the trainee program and couldn't get someone. Landowners got us through a pinch but it was a close thing. Dad helped, but he's getting older.
"After awhile, you're exhausted and tired of it."
The TFW program created by FNA removes most of the bureaucratic burden from farmers, employing professionals to ensure all laws and regulations are scrupulously followed.
Bob Friesen, FNA's vice president of government relations, said the public should take reassurance in the TFW program as it operates in agriculture.
"Our challenge has not been in meeting all requirements faithfully. Rather, our challenge has been officials who've been subject to media abuse, going overboard to avoid any hint of criticism. This creates a situation where, even though our farmer member applicants undertake the due diligence to ensure domestic help is not available and recognize this is not about saving money, officials still fear reprisals. Obviously this is a symptom of the stress being placed on them.
"We applaud the government, however, for trying to manage the program constructively in the face of all the criticism because it clearly recognizes that there is a serious labour shortage in some sectors and regions," Friesen said.
Schultz is happy with the program, saying his experience with FNA's TFW program has been "really good."
Friesen reports that another 25 workers will be arriving this spring to help farmers get the crops in and manager their herds with the source countries being evenly split between the Ukraine and Ireland.
"As we noted when we launched it, FNA's TFW program is not about undercutting wages or replacing Canadian workers," Friesen explained. "On the contrary, we are bringing in skilled people farmers would greatly prefer to find locally. Using the TFW program is not cheap, and the workers brought in under FNA's program are not low-wage."
Friesen urged farmers to think about their labour needs for the year ahead and next spring. Planning is needed to ensure adequate time to complete the process of gaining government approval and recruiting and evaluating foreign job candidates.
Farmers of North America is a member based farm business alliance with the single mission of "Maximizing Farm Profitability."
SOURCE: Farmers of North America