Survey Shows Impacts Immigration Policy has on Agriculture


A survey recently released by the California Farm Bureau shows immigration policy still harms agriculture in the same capacity as seen in a similar survey in 2012. The informal survey showed that more than half of responding farmers had experienced employee shortages during the past year. California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger says the worker shortage impacts farm operations…

“We have seen some people making some changing in their cropping patterns, going to more mechanized type of crops, and trying to deal with farm labor contractors.

“But, the bottom line is, we have a broken immigration system, farmers and ranchers are having to make decisions, not on the market, but on the availability of labor.”

Wenger says the shortage in farm labor means a more competitive situation for farmers to source workers…

“You see a lot of farm labor contractors going into other fields and orchards offering increased wages, rob Peter to pay Paul, get somebody over to pick their crop, and leave the others.  When you don’t have that available supply that means there’s a big fight over those folks that are there, and at the end of the day, somebody’s going to lose.”

He says the survey gives Congress proof that agriculture needs comprehensive immigration reform…

“Instead of just talking and saying that there’s a problem, having a survey like this that goes out does help folks in Congress see that we have a problem on the farm with labor, and finding available labor and here’s the specifics.  These kinds of surveys give credibility to what the American Farm Bureau, and the state Farm Bureau’s are saying.”

Meanwhile, House Republicans are trying again to enact ag worker reform legislation to deal with the longstanding problem of illegal seasonal farm labor in the U.S.  But, the effort may be going nowhere in the Senate.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s Agricultural Workers Act would create a new non-immigrant worker visa program, aimed at providing a stable, legal and adequate labor force for much of U.S. agriculture…

“If we want to insure that America can continue to feed itself, and much of the rest of the world, we must ensure a reliable labor supply for agriculture.

“For many years agricultural employers have lacked access to a robust and reliable, legal work force.  The federal government has driven to direct American workers away from seasonal agriculture work,  and this occupation is the only one universally acknowledged to have unlawful aliens compose the majority of its workforce.”               

Goodlatte called the existing program, “dysfunctional.”

Democrats did not dispute the problem, but argued in committee for hours, that Goodlatte’s bill would reduce the minimum wage paid seasonal farm workers, make them pay for their own healthcare, transportation, and other expenses, displace some U.S. workers with cheap foreign labor, and fail to address the larger U.S. immigration problem.'

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.