Farmers and meat packers both want the federal government to make it easier for them to hire temporary farm workers.
Resolutions passed at the annual meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture this week calling for an increase in the total allowed entry and to allow them to accumulate more than the maximum of 48 months.
This comes in the context of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees flooding into Canada, plus promises that more refugees will be welcomed from other camps, such as Africans waiting for decades in one of the world’s worst camps in Kenya.
"There are some jobs that we can't get Canadians to do," Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said Wednesday.
"Having enough employees to get the job done in a timely matter makes more money for agriculture."
The federal Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program already allows foreign workers to be hired in Canada for up to eight months each year in specific industries such as the tobacco, livestock, fruit and vegetable sectors.
The program is open to workers from Mexico and some Caribbean countries.
Hall's group and other farm organizations such as the Union des Producteurs Agricoles want Ottawa to expand the program to include other commodities such as grain, oilseeds and maple syrup.
Hall said there is a growing shortage of farm hands as older producers retire and younger people leave rural areas or seek other jobs. But farmers who remain on the land are hoping to expand production.
"There are just not enough farm boys left," Hall said. "It would mean getting the crop in on time, getting it sprayed in time and then getting it harvested on time."
Foreign workers hired under the program are limited to basic jobs such as running farm machinery, looking after animals, planting and harvesting.
They can come back to Canada year after year until they reach the program's cumulative limit of 48 months.