American Farm Bureau Federation urges agriculture professionals to push legislators on immigration reform

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recently encouraged agriculture professionals to ask their legislators for immigration reform before worker shortages force more production to move to other countries.

Both the AFBF and Syngenta commented on how to best address the immigration issue, which is an increasing concern to many growers.

AFBF Congressional Relations Director Kristi Boswell said that in California, for instance, many fruit and vegetable growers who can’t get workers are switching to less labor-intensive row crops. As a result of labor shortages, farmers no longer grow more than 80,000 acres of fresh produce, and that production has moved outside of the U.S.

The issue is also impacting the feed market. Dairies and other livestock operators who can’t hire workers are no longer in the market for feedstuffs or are dumping feed, formerly used to maintain their livestock, onto the market.

Boswell said for immigration reform to work, it must take two approaches. First, it must protect current workers, and the AFBF is among the groups advocating for an earned adjustment of status to allow them to remain in the country. That change would likely include an incentive for the workers to keep working in agriculture for a predetermined period. This is not necessarily a pathway to citizenship, Boswell said.

Secondly, said Boswell, the government must reinvent the agricultural guest-worker program.

“To work for agriculture, the guest-worker program must be a cost-effective, market-based system,” she said.

Syngenta Industrial Relations Lead Ryan Findlay said that at the end of the day, farmers want a legal, affordable and reliable workforce.

“The quicker the better,” Findlay said. “Agriculture needs this now.”

Organizations in this story

American Farm Bureau Federation 600 Maryland Ave SW Suite 1000 Washington, DC - 20024

Syngenta Feldbergstrasse 137 Basel, BS - 4058

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