Immigration reform key to agricultural economy

Immigration reform is quickly turning into a polarizing issue in the political realm. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has recently made brash comments about undocumented immigrants that have gotten much attention in the news. His comments have also been met with staunch opposition from many, especially farmers, who realize that there are so many far-reaching economic consequences to the outcome of immigration reform in this country.

As Mike Wilson of Farm Futures writes, “Without immigration reform, the loss [of] farm workers could ripple through the entire ag-based economy with potentially long-term negative effects.”

California, one of the most agriculturally reliant state economies in the United States, serves as an excellent example of what could happen without immigrant workers. Many growers who are unable to find a steady influx of workers are being forced to switch to less labor-intensive row crops. As a result, farmers grow far less fresh produce and the larger productions are instead shifting to other countries.

Kristi Boswell, director of congressional relations for American Farm Bureau, believes that there are two approaches that immigration reform must take. The first is to protect current workers because so many farms rely on experienced workers to operate efficiently. The second is for the government to change the agricultural guest worker program. So many workers are forced to cross the border illegally to fill open jobs because there is no legal way to do it. “At the end of the day, farmers want a legal, affordable, reliable workforce,” Ryan Findlay, industry relations lead for Syngenta, asserted. “The quicker the better. Agriculture needs this now,” he said in an interview with Farm Futures.