Grain, seed corn growers get access to seasonal worker program

Maple syrup also added to national commodity list

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Growers of grains, oilseeds and seed corn and maple syrup producers may be able to get in on the federal Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) for the 2021 season.

Federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough announced Nov. 27 the national commodity list (NCL) would be expanded to include seed corn, oil seed, grains and maple syrup — a move which allows farmers who produce those products to seek employees via SAWP.

The NCL helps determine eligibility and pay within the primary agricultural stream of the federal Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program. Access to SAWP and the TFW agricultural stream is limited to employers hiring workers for commodities specifically listed on the NCL.

SAWP is the stream most commonly used in Canadian primary agriculture; it provided 46,707 approved positions in 2019, with 12,858 coming from participating Caribbean countries and the rest from Mexico, the government said.

The NCL — which applies to both seasonal and non-seasonal work — already includes apiary products, fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, flowers; nursery-grown trees, greenhouse and nursery plants, pedigreed canola seed, sod, tobacco, beef and dairy cattle, swine, sheep, poultry and ducks, horses and mink among its other primary ag commodities.

SAWP employees and other TFWs were allowed to enter Canada in 2020 as essential workers under new federal limits on entry to Canada at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government reiterated in its announcement Nov. 27 that COVID outbreaks, which led to illnesses and several deaths among Canada’s TFW labour force during 2020, have since prompted moves to update the minimum requirements for employer-provided TFW accommodations.

Consultations on those proposals began in late October and run until Dec. 22.

The Canadian Seed Trade Association, for one, hailed Qualtrough’s expansions to the NCL, saying the inclusion of seed corn on the list gives companies in that sector “access to labour that is urgently needed.”

Seed corn companies “traditionally rely on local high school students to fulfil their temporary labour demands in the summer and have had difficulty accessing the number of workers needed, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the CSTA said Nov. 30 in a separate release.

The CSTA said it expects access to labour will “remain a large challenge looking ahead to 2021.”

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the government said employers and workers who use the TFW program or SAWP are “encouraged to apply early to avoid any delays.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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