N.B. agriculture groups predict 'food system collapse' without temporary foreign workers

agriculture

Agriculture organizations in New Brunswick say an already strained food system in the province is on the verge of collapse due to a ban on Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) for the 2020 growing season.

The National Farmers Union in New Brunswick (NFU-NB), Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick (AANB), and Really Local Harvest held a joint news conference today saying that many farmers are already cutting back their production due to the provincial ban on TFWs.

The group says the move destabilizes the industry by eliminating access to trained, professional workers who often make the difference between make and break in so many farm businesses.

Premier Blaine Higgs announced the ban as a way to control the spread of COVID-19, saying an influx of more workers is too much of a health risk, but it was updated on April 18th to allow any that have been in Canada prior to April 28th into New Brunswick.

The groups say this means that TFWs who are driving trucks or part of vaccination teams will not be stopped at the border, but the rest, who are already in Canada to work on farms, have places of employment.

They say that farms, especially those that produce fruit and vegetables, run with small profit margins.

With May quickly coming to an end, farmers are forced to decide if they should plant their crops or retool their Human Resource Plan for the season. 

The agriculture groups say that from the 18 from who responded to an internal membership survey, around 2,000 acres would not be planted or harvested because of government's decision.

Estimated losses from the farms surveyed were pegged at around $7 million.