Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program ready for Spring
Approximately 16,000 workers expected on Ontario farms during 2014 growing season
By A Correspondent
The seasonal labour program at the root of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable industry is ready for the upcoming growing season — once the record-breaking winter eventually releases the province from its frigid grip.
Over the winter, Mississauga-based Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.) has been busy finalizing arrangements with its international partners for Spring 2014 when approximately 16,000 workers will return to Ontario farms under the 48-year-old Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).
Widely recognized as the best of its kind in the world, the program was established in 1966 to respond to a critical shortage of available and suitable local Canadian agricultural workers. Because SAWP is a “Canadians first” program, supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from other countries (Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad/Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean States) only if agricultural operators cannot find domestic workers to fill vacancies.
“Knowing a reliable source of seasonal workers exists allows farmers to plan for the future, invest in their operations and continue a livelihood that has sometimes been shared by their families for generations,” says Forth, a Lynden, Ont. broccoli farmer.
Not only does SAWP benefit Ontario farmers, but also the province’s our overall economy. It’s estimated that two jobs for Canadians are created in the agrifood industry for every seasonal agricultural worker employed through SAWP at Ontario farms.
The program also pays tremendous dividends for the seasonal workers hired each year and the source countries which are partners in SAWP.
Seasonal workers can earn as much as five times or more working here than they could in their own countries. This income allows the workers to improve the standard of living of their families, educate their children and buy and operate businesses and farms in their own countries
Some seasonal workers are already in the province for the 2014 season assisting at greenhouse operations, but the largest influx is expected in mid-April when fruit growers begin pruning trees and vegetable growers begin field work.
More information about Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) can be found at www.farmsontario.ca