North Carolina Farm Bureau announces it strongly supports NC Legislators taking bold action to override Governor McCrory's veto of the RECLAIM NC Act (HB 786). The RECLAIM NC Act would provide relief from our broken immigration system by allowing farmers to hire the skilled workers needed to address agriculture workforce shortages. The bill overwhelmingly passed the NC House (85-28) and Senate (43-1) during the 2013 Legislative Session but was vetoed by Governor McCrory last week.
"Earlier this year, we released an Agriculture Workforce Report showing the immense need expressed by our farmers for a more stable agricultural workforce," said North Carolina Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten. "Six months later, farmers are still dealing with workforce uncertainty as they prepare to harvest their crops. Time and again farmers have told us that they cannot find skilled local help to get the job done. Our current system for hiring skilled workers is broken. Let's face it, our immigration system is failing our state's largest industry. Our farmers cannot afford to have this veto stand."
Agriculture and agribusiness is the largest industry in North Carolina, accounting for $71.6 billion of the state's economy and nearly one out of every five jobs. The North Carolina Farm Bureau is the largest agriculture organization in the state, with more than 500,000 members.
More than 600 North Carolina farmers from 95 of the state's 100 counties responded to the agriculture workforce survey, a joint effort between Farm Bureau and 18 other agriculture associations. Wooten reiterated that the report shows more than 60 percent of surveyed farmers have had trouble hiring qualified domestic employees, and that nearly one-third reported a loss of income in the past five years due to an insufficient supply of workers. Perhaps the most staggering finding was related to the federal E-Verify program: almost one in five surveyed farmers indicated they would shut down their farm if E-Verify became mandatory without a workable guest worker program in place. "We're talking billions of dollars and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of jobs lost from our state's economy," said Wooten.
Wooten added, "I farmed for decades. I know it's a sad day when fields upon fields of crops go to waste because of a broken immigration system that doesn't meet the workforce needs of a modern farmer. Even with some county unemployment rates near 15 percent, you can drive through rural North Carolina today and talk to farmers struggling to find local American workers to harvest their crops. We all know that only Congress can fix our broken system, but a bold effort by our legislators to override the Governor's veto helps our farmers remain the largest industry in North Carolina."