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Challenges on the Farm 2020/21

Canadian farmers have had their fair share of troubles in 2020 in relation to issues with the planting, tending and harvesting food crops amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers historically rely on the assistance of temporary foreign workers to work in the fields that produce the food supply relied on by the Canadian population. Typical farming constraints have been amplified by the restriction on international flights to/from Canada for non-residents. These travel restrictions were initially enacted by the Government of Canada pursuant to section 58 of the Quarantine Act in an effort to minimize transmission risks. In response to the concerns posed by farmers who feared they would not be able to meet crop demand, an exemption was granted to temporary foreign workers whose labour the farmers relied on to produce their yields.

The exemption also requires the farmer to enforce self-isolation measures for their workers including adequate housing, full wages and benefits for self-isolating employees and the disinfection of shared facilities according this this article from CTV news. While many applaud the Government of Canada’s response to ensure the protection of labour currently employed in those ‘essential industries’ (including trade and transportation) some have criticized their reaction as slow. In order to keep progress continued on the farm, farmers have resorted to hiring domestic labour that had been laid off from their regular work due to closures.

Unfortunately this is not the only challenge Canadian farmers have had to face in 2020 as the frigid temperatures in the Prairies throughout the Winter have delayed the planting season by almost 3 weeks. Remaining snow pact and hardened soil continues to impact the seeding process well into April when progress should have already been well underway. In certain areas, farmers have yet to harvest the previous seasons crops due to the continued cold spell. The upside – once the snows melts the soil is expected to have a higher than normal moisture content which will hopefully assist in the seeding process.