Support for immigration reform from Utah agricultural community

An interesting take on the immigration reform debate has been forming in Utah, where farmers are stating that they can’t hire enough workers given the current state of immigration law. These individuals claim that without a change in the current state of affairs, they won’t be able to continue running their farming operations at the necessary and profitable level.

While the national conversation regarding immigration reform has often stirred comments regarding the rights of U.S. citizens to jobs, many in Utah’s agricultural community maintain that Americans simply aren’t interested in the jobs that they’re offering. Steve Osguthorpe, who has posted advertisements soliciting workers for his sheep herding operation in five states for the last 16 years. As he first told The Daily Herald, he has never had an American applicant, and he posts these ads simply because policy then allows him to solicit migrant workers. Jake Harward, a farmer from Springville, Utah, insisted that Americans simply aren’t interested in manual labor.

“The argument that we’re taking jobs away from others just doesn’t fly in my mind,”Harward told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Whether or not Americans are interested in these jobs, they don’t seem to be applying, and the current H-2A visa program for migrant workers leaves a lot on the table due to inefficiency. Specifically, a study by The National Council of Agricultural Employers indicates that the average migrant farm worker is 22 days late arriving due to administrative and systemic delays, and that this lateness equates to $320 million lost in potential revenue each year.

People in positions of power are certainly taking notice of the issue, though the true clout to resolve immigration reform sits more with the federal government than the state, leaving many perplexed as to what to do. As Sterling Brown, vice president of public policy at the Utah Farm Bureau told the Daily Herald, “This needs to be resolved. Whether it is in one bite at a time or comprehensive, we’ll take it.”