Farm Bureau video spotlights farm labor shortage
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WASHINGTON, June 30, 2016 - There doesn't appear to be any momentum on Capitol Hill on the issue, but that isn't stopping the nation's largest farm group from pointing to the need for reform of the H-2A immigration program.
On Thursday, the American Farm Bureau Federation released a video detailing in particular what the lack of immigration reform could mean to Georgia peach producers. The industry relies on migrant workers to help fill the gap during the small harvest window for the state's famous fruit, but one producer says in the video that administrative delays processing the visas for these workers could be potentially disastrous.
“It could cost us our farm in one season,” Georgia peach farmer Robert Dickey says in the video produced by AFBF. If the workers don't arrive during their labor window, he says the product could spoil.
AFBF President Zippy Duvall, himself a Georgia producer, also appears in the video espousing a principle used frequently by his predecessor, Bob Stallman.
"We either have to import our labor,” he said, “or we'll have to import our food."
AFBF and many other ag groups have had immigration reform on their legislative wish list for some time, but political difficulties around the issue have made achieving that reform difficult. Agriculture's seasonal labor needs make it uniquely dependent on spurts of increased workers, which can be satisfied through methods like the H-2A program.
Operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the H-2A program allows for certain employers “to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs.” According to an AFBF survey, farmers in at least 22 states use the H-2A program and have been hit by administrative delays that caused delays - sometimes by days or weeks - in worker arrivals.
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