Region 2, Region 3 | Media Release

NFU Announces Campaign Addressing Impact of Climate Change on Farm Workers and Farmers Amidst Third Consecutive Day of Over 30 Degree Temperatures

OTTAWA, ON— The National Farmers Union (NFU) announces the launch of Weathering the Harvest: Voices from the Frontlines of Canada’s Climate Crisis. Farm workers and farmers across the country will share videos and photos throughout the growing season, painting an intimate and confronting portrait of the daily realities of farming in an increasingly hostile climate. The NFU is calling for urgent changes to improve workplace safety regulations, strengthen labor rights, and deliver the comprehensive climate action needed to keep farm workers safe.

Farm workers are on the frontlines of Canada’s climate crisis. For three consecutive days this week, temperatures in the NCR and Southern Quebec exceeded 30 °C, causing many farm workers to worry about what the season holds. 

From life-threatening heatwaves and unpredictable storms, to prolonged periods of drought and wildfire smoke, the challenges posed by extreme weather are escalating. While the provinces are aware of the challenges facing workers, only British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have Occupational Health and Safety regulations targeting the hazards of heat stress. 

Ontario, which employs the greatest portion of Canada’s migrant farm workers, has yet to adopt heat-stress specific regulations. Ontario’s Provincial Climate Change Impact Assessment has predicted 55-60 days of extreme (over 30 °C) heat annually by 2080 if nothing is done to curb emissions.

“That kind of heat will not only catastrophically impact our ability to grow certain crops, it will be deadly to workers and producers,” says Jenn Pfenning, president of the National Farmers Union and operator of Pfenning Organics, a 700-acre vegetable farm in Wilmot County, ON that employs 150 workers, including migrant workers. “If we care at all about food security, the health and safety of farm workers must be made a national priority.”

“We’re paying the price of Canada’s dependence on fossil fuels with our health,” says Hannah Kaya, a farm worker in Western Quebec. “Farm workers are out in the fields every day producing food and profit for Canada regardless of wildfire smoke and heat. The NFU is calling for urgent action to expand worker protections and address the underlying climate crisis that is making these extreme heat events more frequent and severe.”