With state farm experts predicting a drop in available farm labor, Washington agricultural officials are urging the federal government to reform immigrant labor-laws, pushing for a less restrictive guest worker program.
Over the past two years, immigration has emerged as a contentious agricultural issue. With several states across the country passing restrictive immigration laws, many farmers have seen their available supply of labor drop as undocumented workers leave states with punitive immigration regulations. States like Georgia and Alabama, for instance, have suffered from millions of dollars in lost revenue as crops rot in farmers’ fields with no one to pick them.
Washington State has also suffered from labor shortages. Last spring, orchards across the state reported heavy losses due to a severe lack of farm labor.
Agricultural leaders from across the country have argued that the solution to these problems lies in reforming the guest worker program to allow more nonresidents to enter the country and work legally. Over the last several months, Congress has conducted a series of hearings exploring immigration reform and investigating the possibility of reforming guest worker programs.
Some farmers, however, believe that true immigration reform won’t happen without a groundswell of support from across the country, a mass-movement akin to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. “It will take that much effort to solve this,” Washington Agriculture Director Dan Newhouse said.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer