Migrant workers have long been a strong component of the United States’ agricultural industry. However, the introduction of stringent immigration laws have led many with citizenship to see just how heavily the United States depends on undocumented foreign labor for food production.
According to the Yakima Herald, most growers agree that immigration reform is needed for the agricultural industry to see a true turnaround. Many farmers have had to abandon several acres of their crop that were all suitable for harvesting simply because they didn’t have enough paid assistance to pick it. Some farmers are advocating for adjustments to the current public school calendar in order to allow more students to work in agriculture, according to the source.
“The overriding need is immigration reform,” Mike Gempler, the executive director of the Yakima-based Washington Grower’s League, told the Herald.
The average migrant family of four, which typically has two working parents, earns approximately $12,500 to $14,500 per year combined and is constantly faced with the health risks of pesticides and other chemicals that are sprayed onto the produce, according to a recent article by Helene York, director of strategic initiatives for Bon Appetite, in The Atlantic.
The source also stated that the United States pays less for its food than any other first-world nation. Because of the low wages, many children are also forced to help out, often working nearly full time to help support their families. Although Federal laws prohibit children from working a certain number of hours, agriculture has always been left out of these laws.
“What’s needed is more income paid to laborers for the really hard work. And that’s a hard victory to achieve,” wrote York.