Agriculture Industry Harmed by Restrictive State Immigration Laws

The American agricultural industry is facing billions of dollars in losses due to labor shortages resulting from recent anti-immigrant laws passed in various states around the country.  The American farming industry is heavily dependent on undocumented workers, and according to a recent article in Time Magazine, has had an extremely difficult time replacing those who have fled as a result of laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 or Alabama’s HB 56.

According to the article:

“Roughly 70% of the 1.2 million people employed by the agriculture industry are undocumented. No U.S. industry is more dependent on undocumented immigrants. But acute labor shortages brought on by anti-immigration measures threaten to heap record losses on an industry emerging from years of stiff foreign competition. Nationwide, labor shortages will result in losses of up to $9 billion, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.”

The affected farmers are not just those living in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, or Utah. Time points out that North Carolina has been experiencing similar labor shortages as well, indicating that the negative impact of these laws has not been confined to the states enacting them.

The shortage persists in spite of the fact that the farmers have been offering competitive packages to domestic workers in a struggling economy.  Domestic workers, they suggest, simply do not want to do the low-paying and grueling work usually done by immigrant workers. As a result, large portions of their crops are being left on the vine to rot.  These findings fly in the face of arguments that undocumented skilled laborers are “stealing” American jobs,” as opposed to being essential members of the American economy who fill economic voids that very much need filling.

Another recent Time article highlighted the fiscal fallout of the draconian state immigration laws, and the evidence on the economic benefits of a more open immigration regime have been clear quite some time.

The impact on agriculture is the latest indictment of the “self-deportation” strategy, which time has shown to be an economic, legal, and humanitarian catastrophe.  As we mentioned last week, some cities have begun to a more welcoming approach, and will probably be much better off for it. The question that now must be asked is this:  what reasons remain for supporting regressive immigration policies that harm America’s agriculture, economy, and families?  It is perhaps best put by Nan Walden, the Arizona pecan farmer quoted in the Time article:

“’We feel strongly that there has never been a greater need for federal leadership for immigration reform,’ says Walden. ‘The United States farmer is still the most efficient in the world, and if we want to be in charge of our food security and our economy and add favorably to our balance of payments, we need to support a labor force for agriculture.’”

Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

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  • Yes, we need some true leadership to fix our imigration laws. Amnesty is not an option and quit treating the imigrants like political pawns. Any Senator / Congressmen (Democrat or Republican) that has been in longer than two terms -send them packing !

  • Agreed

  • Tell me Jari Kubat & Parth; why are you boths so afraird immigrants? What have they ever taken from you; food, jobs or what? I am sure that both of you must work in the orchards or cotton fields tending to them (weeding them out, also known as cotton chopping) & then picking their products for 10 – 12 hours a day in the hot sun (100 to 110 degrees) and then getting paid less than miminal wage.

    As far as using up U.S. resources such as medical, food stamps and such and not paying taxes; look around your cities and townships and you will see that the majority of the homeless people are white Americans and they are the ones that are using up all the resoures that you both claim the immigrants are utilizing. Sure when an immigrant or his family member(s) get seriously ill, he will seek help and will use some of the resouces that you so cherish and are unwilling to humanely share with immigrants that are less fortunate then you.

    And as far as taxes are concern, illegal immimgrants pay into the tax system through payroll deductions and the majority of them never do their taxes because they fear that they will be discovered and deported. Therefore all that money that they are due because of their low paying, back breaking jobs that homeless and unemployed Americans are not willing to do, stays in the federal reserve & the U.S. government assumes ownership and use it as they please.

    Now let me put your mind at ease, if you are thinking that I might be an illegal or legal immigrant you would be wrong. I was born in the SB1070 state where our racist white state government officials and govern just couldn’t wait to pass among themselves SB1070 and put it into operation.

    For the sake of argument you might say, well the drug trafficing problem in Arizona is so bad that SB 1070 was needed. Drug trafficing is a law enforcement issue not an immigrant issue; the drugs keep flowing across the border because they are in such high demand by the Americans. No SB1070 is just a political tool to try to make the state all white.