The debate over immigration doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, and as the gridlock between the two major political parties continues, it’s America’s agricultural industry that will suffer significantly. There are more than 20,000 farms in the U.S. that employ more than 435,000 immigrants each year.
Thousands of seasonal immigrant laborers are employed in states like California and Florida every year. Places that is dealing with a great deal of fallout from the inaction in Congress are states like South Carolina and Ohio.
“Because we’re not a border state, it’s definitely harder to get people over this far from the border to work,” Chalmers Carr, the owner of the East Coast’s largest peach grower, South Carolina’s Titan Farms, told McClatchy DC News. “2006, 2007, even 2008, we had a very robust economy and there were not enough farmworkers then.”
He added that there simply aren’t enough immigrant laborers to help with the orchards, despite South Carolina being a state that saw its Hispanic population rise by almost 150 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Many of the immigrants who have spent the last several decades working in fields across the U.S. are getting older. However, their younger relatives are unable to pick up where they left off because of the political tensions in Washington, D.C., that are making the descendants of these immigrants hesitant of picking up where they left off out of fear of being deported.
Farmers are often attacked by anti-immigration supporters for not hiring Americans, but the farmers argue that Americans aren’t willing to do the work that needs to be done in the fields, leaving it up to the nation’s immigrants.
“About 5 percent of the agriculture jobs needed, you’ll get American workers for … You’ve got a choice to import your food or you can import your labor to harvest your food,” Carr told McClatchy DC News.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and the Partnership for a New American Economy plans to run an ad encouraging Congress to act on immigration, according to The Des Moines Register.
The ad will run in farm trade publications, at state fairs and be seen at other venues in America’s heartland. It depicts a Texas farmer who was forced to destroy some of his crops because he couldn’t find the workers he needed to harvest them, the Des Moines Register reported.