The Canadian border was still shut to migrant agricultural workers as of late last week. However, Ken Forth said he and other farm leaders have been working on a daily basis with federal officials to have it opened.
“Last night they told us there were some legal hurdles to cross,” Forth said, speaking on March 25.
“I’ll only know that it’s going ahead when they tell us they’re booking the airplanes.”
Forth is the president of the Foreign Resource Management Service – F.A.R.M.S. – and chairs the Labour Section of the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association. F.A.R.M.S. was formed in the 1960s and today helps coordinate the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program and the agricultural stream of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.
Forth is frustrated at the delays and so are others.
“I’ve got people calling me every day, saying they’re going to lose the farm. It’s turning into a nightmare and I don’t think there’s an appreciation of how time sensitive this is.
“I think they (federal government) will end up affecting the food supply if they don’t smarten up.”
It’s not just a matter of getting the crop into the ground. The harvest of Ontario’s asparagus crop is just weeks away and greenhouse operators need people in place the year around.
Forth said another consideration is having people in place to maintain the various crops as they’re growing and then to harvest them. If the work is left to Canadian job seekers, he’s not confident they’ll all stick it out until the end of the season.
Forth also pointed out that the migrant workers will be pre-screened for signs of illness prior boarding planes taking them to Canada. Efforts are also being made to reduce the risk of adding to the coronavirus crisis once they arrive through a quarantine effort and other measures.
Using Canadians workers, who travel back and forth to their homes and families, may be a less desirable option, Forth said.