The Sprout: No temporary foreign workers in Windsor-Essex for now

Good day and welcome to the Sprout, where it’s National Peach Melba Day and National Gluten-Free Day. It’s also Make Your Dreams Come True Day — so go on, dream big and chase those personal or professional goals!

Here’s today’s agriculture news.

The Lead

Public health officials in Windsor-Essex, a key agricultural hub in Ontario, aren’t allowing temporary foreign workers into the region for three weeks because COVID-19 has strained community resources. As CBC News reports, business owners and operators who employ the workers were told in a letter they must immediately cancel, suspend, or postpone the workers’ arrival between Jan. 13 and Feb. 1.

The full letter from public health officials is here.

As CBC News reports, the delay has farm leaders worried about the upcoming growing season, with some warning the pause could be “catastrophic”. Meanwhile, the mayor of Leamington, where most of North America’s greenhouses are concentrated, estimates crop losses could be in the millions of dollars.

“I honestly can’t believe we’re in this predicament three years in,” Hilda MacDonald told the CBC. “I’d like to think we’d have this figured out (by now).”

A labour shortage in Canada’s agricultural sector is also costing billions in lost sales and delayed production, says an industry expert. As iPolitics’ Jeff Labine reports, roughly 240,000 Canadians worked in agriculture in December 2021, a 21-year low for that month, according to Statistics Canada’s labour-force survey released on Jan. 7. In contrast, nearly 350,000 Canadians held ag jobs in December 2000.

Around Town 

A fundraiser was launched on Tuesday to feed front-line medical workers in the nation’s capital, while also supporting the city’s local restaurants. As the Ottawa Citizen reports, more than $4,500 had been donated by 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The goal was to raise $5,000.

The House of Commons’ Finance committee plans to investigate what’s causing disruptions to supply chains and the inflated costs of food and housing. The Globe and Mail has more.

The federal government has extended the repayment period for Canada Emergency Business Account loans and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. More details are here.

With help from the RBC Foundation and Farm Credit Canada, the University of Guelph is launching a free virtual course for farmers who want to brush up on their farm-business-management skills. The news release is here.

In Canada 

The Canadian government has partly backed down from its plan to require that all truck drivers entering the country show proof they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 15. As the Canadian Press reports, Canadian truckers won’t have to quarantine if they’re unvaccinated or have only had one dose of the vaccine. It’s unclear whether the policy change is temporary or permanent.

Moving to potatoes, growers and exporters on Prince Edward Island say they’re skeptical of an offer by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to help find new international markets for their spuds. As CBC News reports, some farmers say the agency is suggesting markets to which the industry already exports potatoes.

Meanwhile, the P.E.I. Potato Board told Saltwire that federal funding to help the sector weather the trade dispute is “grossly inadequate.”

Some Island growers have also begun packing COVID tests for distribution in schools, as the potato industry remains in the middle of a trade dispute between Canada and the United States over potato wart. CBC News has that story.

In non-potato news, restaurant patrons have been bundling up and eating on patios to support local restaurants during Ontario’s latest lockdown. The Ottawa Citizen has more.


Reuters reports that the Biden administration’s ambitious social-spending and climate program has ignited debate between environmental groups and farmers over methane emitted from cow manure.

Politico is reporting that some Democratic lawmakers have been quietly trying to push out the head of the House Agriculture committee, Rep. David Scott, because they feel he’s been ineffective in the role.

In trade-related news, India and the U.K. have formally launched bilateral talks aimed at securing freer movement of goods and people. Reuters has that story.

Finally, China has accused Kentucky Fried Chicken of wasting food. CNN has more.


The Kicker 

Lays has taken the classic pairing of sports and potato chips to the next level with a limited line of chips made from potatoes grown in soil from fields in the National Football League.

Until tomorrow.

This post was copy-edited after publication.

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