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Our farmers face a critical shortage of legally authorized and experienced workers, which negatively impacts our economic competitiveness, local economies, and jobs. Every farm worker engaged in high-value labor-intensive crop and livestock production sustains two to three off-farm but farm dependent jobs. We cannot continue allowing foreign producers to take advantage of our labor crisis.

 

We urge your support for immigration reform legislation to address the crisis facing the agriculture industry.

 

The agricultural industry has united to present a legislative framework that provides actionable solutions for agriculture’s labor needs. This solution includes:

 

  • An opportunity to obtain legal status
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  • A program to ensure an adequate, productive and competitive arm workforce in the future

 

This visa program needs to be market-based and have the flexibility to meet the needs of producers, including those with year-round labor needs, such as dairy and livestock.

 

To contact your Representative and Senators about American agriculture’s need for immigration reform, please call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

 

Advocacy Toolkit

The AWC has developed many tools you can use to get involved and ensure your voice is heard.

Immigration Reform: Frequently Asked Questions

Do agricultural employers want “amnesty?”
  • No, but farmers do need to be able to keep their experienced workers—their trustworthy, right-hand men and women who have worked for them for years and know how to get the work of the farm done.
  • The reality is that a large percentage of farm workers are in the U.S. illegally, largely because Congress has failed to fix the shortcomings of the existing agricultural worker program. It’s time to deal with that reality. We believe enforcement is an important part of the puzzle, both for farmers and for American workers, as long as it is paired with a solution for agriculture’s current and future workforce.
Why isn’t E-Verify the solution?
  • E-Verify is a federal, online system to determine workers’ authorization to work in the U.S. That seems like a good idea, and it is…if there are legal and sensible ways for enough workers to enter the U.S. and work on farms. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Without a solution to that problem, simply cracking down on unauthorized workers leaves farmers holding the burlap bag.
  • With a solution in place, E-Verify can work as an enforcement mechanism. We are not opposed to E-Verify, as long as farmers have access to a stable supply of workers. Access and enforcement must go hand-in-hand.
Don’t foreign farm workers take jobs away from American workers?
  • In fact, it’s the opposite. Immigrant workers take jobs that Americans don’t want. Agricultural work is hard, seasonal and often transitory. Most American workers are unwilling to take these jobs. Therefore, we have come to rely on an immigrant labor force.
  • Without immigrant workers, U.S. economic output would decline. Each of the 1.6 million hired farm employees working on American farms and ranches supports two to three full-time jobs further down the value chain in food processing, transportation, farm equipment, marketing and retail and other sectors. Without farm workers, thousands of U.S. workers who do have jobs—on farms, in food processing and in other fields—thanks to the output that immigrant workers produce would lose those jobs.
How do we secure our borders?
  • One way to help secure the border is to create legal ways for agricultural workers to enter. If our government doesn’t have to waste time and resources locking up farm workers, it can focus on preventing those with nefarious intentions from entering our country. We absolutely agree that America has to secure its borders. Creating a feasible agricultural worker program is a step in that direction
  • As long as there is demand in the U.S. for farm workers and a supply of workers willing to cross the border, hard-working people will continue to enter the U.S. to earn a living for themselves and their families back home. Creating a legal way for them to do so through a new agricultural visa, and a way to know who they are and what they’re doing while they are here, makes us more secure.
Why not just change the current ag worker program?
  • The H-2A visa program currently allows for citizens of other countries to enter the U.S. to do seasonal or temporary work. The program at its core is very difficult for an employer to maneuver. The Labor Department has too often changed the rules of the program on the fly, making it unworkable. Farmers and ranchers have seen an increase in denials of their applications for workers. However, each year, more and more farms have to use the H-2A program for legal foreign labor to meet their workforce needs. The demand on the program is increasing as producers have nowhere else to turn; yet the administrative weight of the program cannot keep up.
  • H-2A employment has doubled in the past four years and could double again in the next 2 years or less. Even at current levels, capacity and infrastructure issues at the Departments of State, Homeland Security and Labor are leading to greater processing delays than ever before. This means bureaucratic red tape and delays result in workers showing up at the farm well after the date of need, and millions of dollars in agricultural production is lost in the interim.
  • H-2A also does nothing to address the “commuter” issue—workers who live just across the Mexican border and go home each night and return the next day. And farms that need workers for longer periods, such as dairy farms, can’t use the program because the work isn’t temporary enough to qualify for H-2A.
  • In fact, there have been so many problems with H-2A that farmers have no confidence it can be a solution for the future. It’s time for a new approach—one that farmers and workers will embrace. A program that is market-based and fair to workers and farmers. A program that accommodates year- round work. A program that truly meets agriculture’s needs.
How can I get engaged in this issue?
  • The first step in achieving agriculture labor reform begins by educating lawmakers. Please let your senators and member of Congress know that, as part of immigration reform, you support establishing a new agricultural worker visa program that gives both employers and employees stability and flexibility, now and into the future.
  • Visit the Agriculture Workforce Coalition’s website to read what the press is saying and get the latest information from the coalition’s members. The coalition’s website is: http://www.agworkforcecoalition.org/.

If you have additional questions, please contact the Agriculture Workforce Coalition at
info@agworkforcecoalition.org.