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New Brunswick agriculture sector facing demographic challenges

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WATCH: Every industry of the province stands to be affected by a lack of workers in the coming years, and the agriculture sector is no exception. Silas Brown reports – Jan 16, 2020

Behind forestry, agriculture is New Brunswick’s second-largest industry, but fewer New Brunswickers are opting to enter the agriculture sector.

“We’re all looking for staff,” said Christian Michaud, the president of the New Brunswick Agricultural Alliance.

The alliance is hosting it’s annual AGM in Fredericton this week in order to discuss the issues faced by the industry.

READ MORE: Wet, soggy spring leaves New Brunswick farmers frustrated

One of the challenges is the demographic crunch that is impacting the entire province. Michaud says a shrinking labour force has been an issue for the industry for years.

“Less and less people want to do farm work now so I guess we’re one of the sectors that gets hit quite hard. In some cases we just don’t have the means to pay as much as other industries,” saud Michaud.

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The minister of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries Ross Whetmore acknowledged that the industry is facing challenges.

“It’s certainly not easy, it’s not an easy profession,” he said.

“You know you can work hard all year and then you get a month of bad weather, so you end up working for absolutely no income.”

Whetmore says the government is working hard to get youth interested in agriculture with programs like Ag in the Classroom and hands-on programs such as the one at Oromocto High School.

Click to play video 'Oromocto High encouraging younger generation to get involved with agriculture, technology' Oromocto High encouraging younger generation to get involved with agriculture, technology
Oromocto High encouraging younger generation to get involved with agriculture, technology – Jan 9, 2020

“Over the last 30 years our focus has been on IT and things like that and we haven’t let our youth know how important agriculture can be,” Whetmore said.

One way of doing just that is to highlight the other jobs in the agriculture sector beyond the outdated picture of what a farmer is.

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“You know a lot of people don’t realize exactly what’s involved,” Whetmore said.

“We need engineers in this sector, agrologists, scientists, so we’ve gotta get that out.”