Joint statement from the NFU-NB, AANB and Really Local Harvest in regards to TFW restriction

Posted: Apr 28, 2020

The families of Odulio (in white) and Manuel (in blue). These men are temporary foreign workers from Cordoba, Mexico, who have worked at Strawberry Hill Farm for several years. (Photo: Tim Livingstone)

The National Farmers Union in New Brunswick, Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick and Really Local Harvest strongly disagree with the decision to restrict incoming temporary foreign workers (TFW’s) into the province. 

TFW’s are an integral part of food production in New Brunswick. “This is cutting the means by which we have to produce. They want us to increase vegetable production but want us to hire people who may leave at the drop of a hat or before our season has finished” says Tim Livingstone co-owner of Strawberry Hill Farm. Tim and Kirsten Livingstone have invested in training TFW’s for over four years and rely on their expertise to supervise their local employees. 

TFW’s are team members and in many cases part of the family of our small producers in New Brunswick. They are people and cannot simply be replaced with another worker from another sector. People’s right to self determination – the ability to exercise control over their own lives – and our integrity as employers and as a province that has signed contracts with people to ensure our food production and supply, are at stake as we consider breaking these agreements. If they are not allowed to enter the province, we, collectively, still owe them, and the families they support. 

The federal and provincial governments have moved mountains in the last months to ensure these workers are still able to come to Canada and that precautions are taken to ensure the safety of all. Many people have spent many hours in conversations with foreign governments and embassies; drafting guidelines and policies; and liaising with farms to ensure TFW’s are coming into safe work environments for both them and the communities around them. In other provinces, the cost of the quarantine period is being covered by the government, so that no additional cost is added to the farms. 

On our end, our province is making it difficult if not impossible for farms to ensure production especially as the season begins amidst uncertainty and instability. We owe it to workers and farm owners to ensure that workers arriving in the province can quarantine in safety and dignity, to be paid and have access to health care. In addition, migrant workers who have been left unemployed or unable to travel to work must have the same access to Federal income support (CERB) as all other workers affected by COVID-19.

In addition to it being devastating financially for hundreds of families of the employees that have been promised employment. It would be difficult if not impossible for farms to hire TFW’s or any other workers midseason. Even if employees from other sectors or students are put in their place, when the other jobs re-open and school starts, no one will be there to bring in the harvest. Because of the low-margin nature of farming it is not realistic to put people with no background in agriculture in place and maintain a profit. Our province is making it difficult if not impossible for farms to ensure production especially as the season begins amidst uncertainty and instability. We feel Premier Higgs is directly contradicting himself. He has stated that he wants the province to be more self-sufficient and prevent food scarcity, therefore he needs to respect the protocols put in place by the federal government and Health Canada. These workers are critical to the industries Premier Higgs indicated last week were extremely low in local production. 

The National Farmers Union in N.B. and the Agricultural Alliance of NB are both general farm organizations that represent the interests of all agricultural sectors of the province. Really Local Harvest is a cooperative of about thirty farms from the South East region of New Brunswick with a strong focus on food security and the prosperity of family farms province-wide. All organizations demand that the decision be reversed and that we take measures to hold our promises to the workers that have been assured employment as well as the farms that are awaiting the arrival of employees on which they depend.

Media Contact:

Rébeka Frazer Chiasson, President NFU-NB (506) 626-0057

Lisa Ashworth, President AANB (506) 452-8101

Maxime Gauvin, Executive Director Really Local Harvest (506) 317-0321