Earlier this week, a coalition of farmers from across the country urged Congress to pass an immigration reform bill in order to deal with the increasingly desperate shortage of farm workers.
For the past several years, immigration has been a hot-button issue in rural communities across the country. In 2010, Arizona passed a harsh new immigration law designed to curb the flow of undocumented workers. Following in Arizona’s wake were several other Southern states, including Georgia and Alabama, who passed similar legislation.
The end result in several of these states has been a dramatic decline in available farm labor. In Georgia and Alabama, for example, farmers have suffered from tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. The lack of undocumented labor has shrunk their labor pool, forcing them to plant significantly smaller harvests or run the risk of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of crops rotting in fields.
In an attempt to solve these sporadic labor shortages, farmers across the country have been pressuring Congress to pass new work visa laws, relaxing current regulations and making it easier for foreign workers to obtain employment in the United States.
In the words of one North Carolina Farm Bureau official, “The pool of available American workers has all but collapsed. … We’re either going to import our workers or we’re going to import our food, that’s the reality of it. We don’t send our children to the university to learn to pick blueberries or harvest strawberries. We send them to school to operate businesses that are dependent on those commodities.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer