N.B. farmer grows best crops in decades but struggles to find workers to pick them – New Brunswick

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Farmers across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are in peak harvest and say crops are looking healthier than they have in years thanks to the weather. But finding people to harvest those crops has been a challenge for some growers.

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“In terms of going conditions, it has been not ideal but pretty damn near,” said Bouctouche farmer Christian Michaud, who owns Michaud Farms.

He said his crops are healthier than they have been in 20 years thanks to the combination of rain and recent warm temperatures.

The problem is, he said, he doesn’t have enough workers to pick his bumper crop.

Hiring harvesters locally continues to be a struggle, Michaud said, and he says the province failed to provide funding to help farmers pay for mandatory quarantine measures for temporary foreign workers entering the province.

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“With what it was costing farmers to get the workers here this year with hotels and all the costs associated with it,” bringing in more workers became unaffordable, he said.

Tim Marsh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, says New Brunswick’s government “really wasn’t interested.”

“They thought they could get locals to work but when they are getting a CERB payment from the feds to stay home, why would they?”

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He said Nova Scotia covered the hotel and quarantine costs for workers entering the province to help cushion the financial blow for farmers.

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“I have to hand it to our government for stepping up to the plate and even last year when COVID started, last year’s crews of TFWs (temporary foreign workers), our government stepped up to help,” said Marsh.

Marsh said he hopes that support will continue following next week’s election and, while farmers in his province are also experiencing some labour shortages, the situation is not nearly as dire as in neighbouring New Brunswick.

Global News has reached out to the New Brunswick government for comment but has not yet received a response.

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Michaud says he could only afford to bring in about half of the temporary foreign workers he needs and even though he has bumper crops, he will likely have to leave some to rot in the fields.

“I have more crops in the field than we can take out right now and it’s just a sad reality.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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