BC landscape and nursery owners are ready to welcome seasonal farm workers after concerns that biometric requirements would delay arrivals this winter.
Nurseries are typically the first farm operations in the province to receive workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), but some feared that a requirement for workers to provide biometric information would be an issue. The concerns were among those discussed at a special BC Landscape and Nursery Association meeting in Abbotsford on December 17.
Originally announced in 2018, a year that saw plenty of processing delays, the new requirement was phased in for returning workers. Ottawa would require all SAWP workers from Mexico to submit a facial photo and fingerprints, but to address processing capacity in Mexico, a staggered timeline was established for returning workers that would see the data collected over two years. Once collected, it would be good for 10 years.
Still, with 24,000 workers to register, approximately of them 7,500 destined for BC, local farms were concerned. The facility in Mexico can handle just 150 people a day, and as of last summer still had half its SAWP participants to process in time for the 2020 season.
The intervention of the BC Agriculture Council and its subsidiary, the Western Agricultural Labour Initiative (WALI), addressed growers’ concerns.
“We worked with the affected employers and I think we were able to accommodate everyone,” BC Agriculture Council executive director Reg Ens told Country Life in BC.