The United States experienced billion-dollar losses this year, and many farmers are blaming U.S. immigration laws as the culprit. Farmers rely on thousands of seasonal workers to help them grow, harvest and pack their products. However, with new legislation targeting undocumented immigrants, it has become more difficult to recruit skilled workers.
Ralph and Cheryl Broetje own a farm on the Snake River in Washington state, and say that a complicated web of local and national anti-immigration laws have created an acute labor shortage, according to a recent article from Time. Undocumented workers are fleeing certain states and moving to areas with more lenient immigration policies.
“The enforcement of immigration policy has devastated the skilled labor source that we’ve depended on for 20 or 30 years,” Ralph Broetje said during a National Immigration Forum teleconference. “It’s getting worse each year, and it’s going to end up putting some growers out of business if Congress doesn’t step up and do immigration reform.”
Statistics indicate that nearly 70 percent of people who work in the agricultural industry are undocumented. Although these individuals do not have proper work visas, the agricultural industry is more dependent on illegal immigrants than any other industry in the United States.
The findings work into the larger understanding many experts have that immigration laws at the state level do not pay off, and instead create a devastating economic toll on specialized local economies like farms, Time reported.
Nan Walden, vice president of Farmers Investment Co., calls on officials to see the importance of immigration reform for the American farming industry.
“We feel strongly that there has never been a greater need for federal leadership or for immigration reform,” Walden told Time. “The United States farmer is still the most efficient in the world, and if we want to be in charge of our food security and our economy and add favorably to our balance of payments, we need to support a labor force for agriculture.”
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