CANADA, June 26 – A new workforce initiative will support British Columbia’s agriculture and food industry in recruiting and retaining the workers who will help provide a stable food supply for a growing population in B.C. and around the world.
“The demand for B.C. food and beverage products continues to grow, and we need to address labour challenges now, so we can continue to rely on B.C.’s agriculture and food sector in the future,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “Our government is working hard to increase the number of B.C. agriculture workers so we will have a safe and resilient local food supply for generations to come.”
The Agriculture and Food Workforce Development Initiative will provide as much as $15 million to help strengthen the workforce by:
- improving recruitment and retention of domestic workers and supporting targeted training to develop a skilled workforce;
- implementing labour-market development strategies and workforce plans; and
- supporting the health and well-being of the agriculture and food workforce.
AgSafe is the first organization supported under the new program and will receive $755,000 to expand mental-health services to the B.C. agriculture sector. This funding will support the expansion of AgSafe’s mental wellness in agriculture initiative that encourages producers to reach out for help and offers mental wellness resources for the agricultural community.
The Agriculture and Food Workforce Development Initiative is funded by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.
Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction –
“We all want people to have access to nutritious, healthy food. That’s why we’ve partnered with Investment Agriculture Foundation to fund the support people need to find and keep good stable jobs in the high-demand food and agriculture sector.”
Wendy Bennett, executive director, AgSafe BC –
“AgSafe has made the mental health and well-being of B.C.’s producers a top priority and we are thankful for the support of our partners. We know that the agriculture industry is experiencing a mental-health crisis – compounded by floods, wildfires, heat domes and drought. With this funding, we will be able to expand our mental wellness initiative to develop and deliver more much-needed resources and tools that are specific to agriculture.”
David Mutz, berry farmer, BC Agriculture Council director, and chair of BC Agriculture Council’s labour committee –
“The ongoing labour shortage in the agriculture sector will be detrimental to the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and ranchers in our province if we don’t act now. In fact, just half a decade ago, we faced a shortage of just over 3,000 agriculture workers, but by the end of this decade, the number of unfilled jobs is expected to increase dramatically, nearly five-fold, to over 15,000 missing workers in the agriculture sector. BC Agriculture Council welcomes this initiative as a strategic contribution to shifting our agriculture workforce in the direction of meeting the market demand for workers and ensuring food security for British Columbians.”
Jack DeWit, chair, Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC (IAF) –
“Supporting producers and processors is supporting skills and training, and health and well-being of those producers and processors across generations. IAF looks forward to delivering this funding, working with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to further refine and implement the programs to support the goal of improving labour resources in B.C.’s agriculture sector.”
Further details about the Agriculture and Food Workforce Development Initiative and anticipated program launches and application deadlines are available here:
AgSafe mental health wellness resources:
Two backgrounders follow.