Give Now

Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Trump Immigration Reform Lacks Farm Labor Help

California farmers this year said in a survey that they often struggle to hire enough workers, even when offering higher wages or seeking H-2A visas. (Photo: akahawkeyefan/flickr)

The White House unveiled an immigration reform proposal last week that would favor highly trained workers over those with family members in the U.S.

But the plan did not address an ongoing crisis – a shortage of farm workers that has hamstrung the agriculture industry.

The American Farm Bureau said the proposal fails to tackle farmers’ struggle to find enough workers for peak seasons.

In a press release, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall called for any immigration reform plan to include provisions for farmworkers.

“Labor shortages are hitting farmers and ranchers across the country in dairy, fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, livestock, and other Ag sectors,” he said.

A Farm Bureau report in 2014 indicated overall losses from immigration challenges could be as high as $60 billion. Agriculture experts say up to half of all farmworkers in the U.S. are undocumented.

The effects of the shortage have reverberated across the ag industry. According to a survey of California farmers released last month, more than a quarter started mechanizing to make up for lost labor. More than 35 percent said they had adjusted cultivation practices, like reducing or delaying weeding and pruning.

A farmworker advocacy group, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, is pushing for a plan to allow workers who are already in the country to gain legal status and to expand the H-2A visa program from seasonal workers to those who work year-round.

California legislators have proposed a “blue card” plan to allow legal status for undocumented farm workers. The legislation would open a path for farm workers to get green cards.

Read More:

  • Shorthanded, U.S. Agriculture Hopes For A Role In Immigration Debate (Ag Insider)
  • Trump: E-Verify Would Make It Too Hard to Hire Undocumented Workers (New York Magazine)
  • Farm Bureau Wants Immigration Problem Solved (Hoosier Ag Today)
Chad Bouchard

Chad Bouchard is a veteran reporter and WFIU alum who has covered wild and wooly beats from Indonesia to Capitol Hill. His radio work has aired on NPR, PRI and Voice of America, and his writing has appeared in The Sunday Telegraph and Scientific American’s health magazine, Lives. He has also spent a lifetime gardening, foraging and eating weird stuff.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Earth Eats:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Search Earth Eats

Earth Eats on Twitter

Earth Eats on Flickr

Harvest Public Media