WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Agriculture Workforce Coalition this week emphasized the importance of immigration reform for America’s farmers and ranchers in a letter sent to President Donald Trump. 70 groups representing a variety of crops grown in every region in the country joined in sending the letter that calls for reforms to ensure that American agriculture has a legal, stable supply of workers—in both the long- and short-term—for all types of producers.
“The economic health of food and fiber producers, and the rural communities in which they live, is threatened by the lack of a reliable, stable and legal workforce. Our farmers face growing shortages of legally authorized and experienced workers each year,” the groups state. “This shortage of labor negatively impacts our economic competitiveness, local economies and jobs. Reforms are necessary to address the agricultural labor shortage.”
The AWC points out that the labor shortage threatens jobs far beyond the farm. Indeed, each farmworker engaged in labor-intensive crop or livestock production supports two to three other jobs off farm, including those with transportation providers, input suppliers, processors and retailers.
“Many of those American jobs would be lost if access to agriculture’s current workforce is jeopardized without providing a mechanism for future legal workers,” the groups say.
The letter continues, “we support strengthening our border, and we believe to do so we must also relieve pressure on the border by providing a lawful path for foreign workers to enter the U.S. on a nonimmigrant basis.”
The groups point out the only current guest worker program available, the H-2A visa program, is not only cumbersome and dysfunctional but only allows for temporary or seasonal workers. Therefore, it cannot be used by farmers—such as those in dairy, livestock and mushrooms, among others—who have year-round need for workers.
“We can and must do better for our economy and country by modernizing our immigration system to include work eligibility for our existing workforce and farmer-friendly programs to provide for future legal guest workers,” the letter concludes. “Done properly, reform will deter illegal immigration, protect and complement our U.S. workforce, better respond to changing economic and demographic needs, and generate greater productivity and economic activity.”