TORONTO — Displaced Dutch, European and New Zealand farmers should come to Canada as policymakers in their home countries drive them out of business, advises the Royal Bank of Canada and other authors in a new report that addresses a presumed impending shortage of 30,000 farmers in this country by 2033.
For Canada, “there are now valuable untapped opportunities to attract operators who have lost their farms because of regulatory policies in other nations,” asserts the April 2 report, which was also produced in collaboration with the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute and the BCG Centre for Canada’s Future.
“This is creating a labour pool of qualified farmers around the world that can help Canada grow its food exports while also adapting to stringent sustainability regulations.”
The report highlights the controversial — and heavily protested — plan of the Netherlands government to buy out 3,000 Dutch farmers at a cost of $35.9 billion CDN. This is placed within a trend that has seen “hundreds of thousands of skilled farmers worldwide” forced to downsize or close. The impact of a 2019 farm-emissions law in New Zealand and the European Union’s loss of over 4 million farms since 2005 are cited as further examples.
Europe and New Zealand’s loss could be Canada’s gain, as this country needs 30,000 permanent immigrants “to establish their own farms and greenhouses or take over existing ones” in the next decade, the authors say.
Canada otherwise faces a shortage of farmers, with 40 % of Canadian farmers — 63,000 people — due to retire by 2033. Two thirds of them lack succession plans. Currently, Canada also has a skills shortage in food production that is third worst in the developed world, behind the U.S. and the Netherlands.
Beyond the immigration of “skilled farmers” to fill the gap, Canada needs to attract more young people into farming by getting colleges and universities to do a better job of encouraging students of all backgrounds into agriculture, according to the report. The authors also call for more investment in on-farm automation to address the labour issue. With those three strategies, “Canada can lead the world into a new era of low carbon farming.”
Canada currently ranks eighth in global food exports, with the United States and the Netherlands leading the pack.