Farmers in Western Canada are gearing up for spring seeding, but recent border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic are presenting producers with a new set of challenges
The 2020 planting season is right around the corner for Western Canadian farmers, but the recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new set of challenges for this year.
On March 16, the Canadian government announced it would close the country’s borders to individuals who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. It exempted U.S. citizens from this border closure. And then, on March 18, the government announced the U.S.-Canada border would close, but it would still permit the cross-border transportation of essentials goods.
The closure means seasonal ag workers who usually come to Canada for the planting season might not be able to enter the country.
In a release, representatives of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) voiced concerns about the potential shortage of labourers but presented a suggestion.
“Many producers have relied on international seasonal labour to do essential work on Canadian farms, but it appears that workers may not be available this season due to border closures. People that have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis need to be connected to agricultural work that urgently needs to be done. APAS and other agricultural groups need to engage with everyone who can help connect potential workers with employment opportunities,” Todd Lewis president of APAS said in the release.
After the tough harvest in 2019, followed by a CN Rail strike in November and rail blockades earlier this year, farmers have had a rough go leading up to the planting season. The ag industry must be remembered during this time, said Garth Whyte, president and CEO of Fertilizer Canada.
“COVID-19 has had an urban response and rightfully so. That's where (the government is) looking at it, but we also have to make sure we understand the rural agri-business response as well,” he said. “Don't forget about farmers. Don't forget how important this time is to get those crops (seeded) in the next two months."
Fertilizer Canada has written letters to the premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, as well as to the prime minister, to remind them of the importance of fertilizer and farm inputs.
“We've been really pleased to see the government … emphasize that trade will continue but, in particular, Minister Bibeau said that not only trade but anything related to agri-food and their input are part of the COVID-19 plan,” Whyte told Farms.com.
Fertilizer Canada continues to prepare farmers for the 2020 planting season, and they know farmers are anxiously waiting to get started, he said.
“We had a tough planting (season) last year – there was a lot of moisture. It was hard … to get crops (planted) in many places and then it was slow getting crops off in the fall,” said Whyte.
“We need this year; we need a good year. And right now, we’re optimistic – except, of course, COVID-19 has thrown a curve at everyone.”
If COVID-19 has affected your farm operation, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture asks you to complete a weekly survey to help the organization understand how the pandemic is impacting the industry.
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