The American Farm Bureau has joined the ranks of supporters rallying behind immigration reform. Farmers in the U.S. need enough workers to harvest crops and maintain livestock so food prices across the country do not rise. The Farm Bureau released a 46-page report detailing how farm workers are desperately needed in the American West, especially in states like Utah and Arizona where many ranchers rely on immigrant workers to help them put food on American tables.
Many ranchers are in support of immigration reform because they say it is difficult to find American laborers who are willing to do year-round work, so they often employ immigrants, undocumented and documented alike. Without help, ranchers’ livestock production could decrease by a third, and cost farmers and ranchers billions in lost revenue nationwide. The Farm Bureau’s report argues that immigration reform should not only focus on border patrol and enforcement, but on how to help America’s farmers who are the backbone of food production in the U.S. Without enough workers, the report states, food production could be cut in half. The president of the Farm Bureau has said that an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform will, over the next five years, contribute to income losses for farms that will be great enough to trigger massive restructuring of the food production sector and will lead to higher food prices and a greater dependence on imported products.
The Department of Agriculture is focusing its attention on petitioning for a change to the H2A visa program, which allows vegetable and fruit growers, butchers and other agribusinesses to employ temporary workers in jobs that cannot be filled with American laborers. Currently, the H2A visa is only allows workers to live in the U.S. for up to a year.