Saskatchewan farmer concerned about agriculture labour shortage

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Saskatchewan farmer concerned about agriculture labour shortage
WATCH ABOVE: RBC is calling on strategy to recruit young farmers in Canada – Aug 28, 2019

A new report from RBC states that Canada can add $11 billion to its economy by 2030 through improvements to agriculture technology, but that more farmers are needed.

Phil Bourque has been in the agricultural industry for four decades near Rosthern, Sask. When he looks at the industry today, he’s concerned because he doesn’t see anyone entering the field.

READ MORE: The farm of the future is staffed by robots, RBC report says

“How many people want to go and have to work 18-hour days because they’re working two jobs or three jobs or their spouse is having to work to simply survive?” Bourque said.

According to RBC, Canada is facing a skills and labour shortage.

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The trend is highlighted in a new report from the bank, which says the shortage in agriculture workers that will grow to 123,000 by 2030.

“Agriculture is heading for a demographic cliff. Within five years, one-quarter of Canadian farmers are going to be over the age of 65. And fewer and fewer young Canadians are going into agriculture,” said RBC senior vice-president John Stackhouse.

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Big data and autonomous robots are another complication. They could change what a farm looks like, but the investment and workers aren’t there to take advantage.

Stackhouse said proper preparations could add $11 billion to Canada’s economy, but first attitudes need to change.

“It’s an interesting contrast that a young Canadian may find it easier to raise a million dollars to run a software company than they would to raise a million dollars to start a farm,” he said.

WATCH: (Nov. 2, 2018) Current and future challenges facing Canadian farmers

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Current and future challenges facing Canadian farmers

RBC is calling for a national strategy to improve investment and attract young Canadians.

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“This is not a backward industry, this is one of the most technologically advanced sectors in Canada,” Stackhouse said.

It’s a call Bourque hopes others heed. Though he’s 66, he said he has no plans to retire because he loves farming, but he knows there are big questions hanging over the industry.

“People will gravitate to industries or businesses where they will be profitable and they can make a good living at … and I think there are still a lot of people out there who would come back into agriculture if the dollars were there. If it was profitable,” Bourque said.

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