What is in this article?:
- Immigration reform crucial for health of U.S. agriculture sector?
- Amnesty concerns
- Through new report on U.S. agriculture, Obama administration amps up pressure on House to pass immigration reform.
- Agriculture Secretary Vilsack pushes report findings.
- Claims without reforms U.S. agriculture set to lose jobs, treasure and operations to other countries.
A report released by the White House on Monday claims that without a major overhaul of immigration laws U.S. agriculture is destined for a loss of jobs, money and farming operations.
The timing of the report’s release was no coincidence. The White House is very interested in keeping immigration reform at the forefront of concerns sure to be expressed to lawmakers by constituents during the August recess.
The Senate has already passed bipartisan, comprehensive immigration legislation. That means little because the House leadership has decided to break immigration reform into smaller bits that remain at committee level.
On Monday afternoon, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, told reporters, “everyone understands and appreciates that the immigration system is broken and is having an impact on agriculture and rural communities…
“The report basically starts by defining the problem. That is, there have been, roughly, 1.1 million full-time farm workers employed in the agriculture sector in the United States. Based on surveys done by the Department of Labor over the years, it is safe to say that at least half of those working in farm fields are probably not documented. Specifically, for those working for less than two years, we expect that close to three-quarters of those workers are not here with proper authorization.”
Read the full report here.
The situation impacts fruit and vegetable production more directly than it does other aspects of agriculture.
“We now know from a series of surveys that the broken immigration system is beginning to have an impact on labor scarcity within agriculture,” Vilsack continued. “The report addresses a number of surveys. One conducted in Texas in 2008 indicated that 77 percent of respondents indicated there was a lack of available workers. That led them to contract the size and scope of their business. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed indicated a shift of a portion of their operations abroad. That indicates some agriculture production is actually moving outside the United States.”
A 2011 survey of Georgia growers “indicated that 78 percent of those growers had experienced harvesting and packing labor shortages during the spring season.”
That then led to a second survey by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. In that, “they found 25 percent of agricultural producers and processors in the state had experienced a loss of income as a result of a lack of available workers. They defined the extent of the impact on the Georgia economy in the hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs lost.”
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Vilsack said the lack of agriculture labor will result in decreases in agricultural production, outputs and exports. He next brought up California, where there are over 81,000 farms that do some $34 billion in sales annually.
“Seventy-three percent of the workforce is non-citizen. … Failure to have comprehensive immigration could cost California somewhere between $1.7 billion and $3.1 billion annually. If we have comprehensive, commonsense immigration reform could result in an increase of almost 9,500 jobs in the state.”