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Qualified labour key to growth, says local farmer

MASSTOWN – Having dedicated and qualified labour to sustain and grow farming operations in the region is imperative, says a local strawberry producer.

Scott Armstrong, left, the MP for Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit Valley, and Gerry Ritz, the federal minister of agriculture, hosted a roundtable discussion with local farmers on Monday in Masstown.

“I think some of the challenges going forward in most of the commodities will be getting people to run equipment – qualified people to run equipment, qualified people that will come and stay with you more than two months,” Curtis Millen, of Millen Farms in Great Village, said Monday following a roundtable discussion with federal Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz. “If you’re going to build somebody you need to build them for a long-term position.”

Millen raised the issue during the roundtable event held at The Peg at Masstown Market.

Ritz said he recognizes the challenges farmers face when trying to find suitable help for their operations, and is committed to a proactive approach on the issue.

“Agriculture’s not unlike any other business – when it’s successful it takes people,” said Ritz.

“You need the right people at the right time, so it’s always a challenge every year, and as (Curtis) said, that as they grow, that need for qualified people in a timely way is growing as well. There’s government programs that can help; sometimes the programs don’t develop as quickly as guys like Curtis would like to see, but certainly that’s why we’re here talking to him, is to make sure he has the ability to grow.”

Which is welcome news to Millen, who added the right workers will help protect the food source in our communities, province and in Canada, as a whole.

“Today we have lots of friends around the world. One day we may be in a situation where a friend today may not be a friend in 10 years. We need to protect our own food sources on our own soils.”

Millen was one of a handful of local farm producers who attended the roundtable discussion. Dairy, egg, poultry and honey producers also took part, as did Scott Armstrong, the MP for Cumberland Colchester Musquodoboit Valley.

“Agriculture is a driving force to the economy of this federal riding and it’s something we can never forget,” Armstrong said.

Other topics discussed included supply management and federal programs for farmers.

Ritz, the MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster in Saskatchewan, said it’s important to meet face-to face with producers to hear their concerns first-hand.

“It’s coming straight from the farmers themselves – what’s working, what’s not working, how can we build our programs in a more user-friendly way and a more timely, effective way, so it’s always good. We do these roundtables every chance I get, election or not.”

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