From a Chronicle-Herald story:

Farms Ontario, a non-profit organization helping farmers in that province and the Maritimes hire foreign workers, says there will be 14 Nova Scotia farms relying on outside help this year, up from three in 1998. The group has processed 161 foreign workers to toil in Bluenose fields this year, up from 117 last year.

The reason for the shortage of local hands varies, from an aging population and young people flocking to Western Canada for work to “government disincentives” that keep those collecting employment insurance, pensions and disability benefits from working as short-term farm labourers. Donna Crawford, who speaks for Horticulture Nova Scotia, says farm jobs are posted for Canadians first, but many on a variety of government programs decide not to take the jobs because their earnings would be clawed back.

The reliability factor is another reason Nova Scotia farm owners are turning to foreign workers. Annapolis Valley farmer Richard Melvin, who grows spinach and cauliflower on his Pereaux spread, began hiring outsiders in 1989 because he couldn’t depend on locals to show up for work. Foreign workers are screened at home to ensure they’re fit for the job, and farmers doing the hiring must pay an hourly wage of $7.52, plus pay for accommodations here, transportation in and out of the country, visas and worker’s comp. It’s a good deal for those doing the hiring, and also for foreigners looking for work.

Hiring foreign workers might still stir controversy in some quarters, but the practice has proven to be absolutely necessary for many farms to survive. Don’t blame the farmers or the foreigners taking the jobs. Blame the system of “government disincentives” and the changing work ethic among the current generation. Part of the solution to labour shortages down on the farm rests with ensuring social policies don’t erode the incentive to work.

Now, you all know my opinion on this. If we can’t find locals to work in the fields, in retail stores in entry level manufacturing, we should find people who will – in a coordinated way.