How the Latest Immigration Laws are Impacting U.S. Agriculture

By Maria Onofrio

Tue, 26 Jun 2018


Farmers and cooperatives throughout the agricultural sector agree that labour shortage and current immigration policies are one of the main challenges US agriculture is facing.

Considering that about 60 percent of the agricultural labour force is represented by immigrants (Chuck Conner, president of the National Council of Farm Cooperatives, a trade group, and former deputy agriculture secretary during the George W. Bush administration), the question now relies on how current immigration policies are affecting the sector and if it would be possible for farmers to continue their operations considering Americans won’t do the work immigrants do.

In Politico’s article “Farmers: Trump terrible for agriculture” Mr. Castañeda, a farm labour contractor in San Luis Obispo County in central California said, “There are growers out there screaming for labour”. “The people who are coming in are doing the work that not a single American would like to do.”

On the same line, Frank Muller, who grows tomatoes, peppers, almonds and walnuts on his California farm said, “My farm would shut down today if you removed my … workforce” “You hear all these disparaging remarks about immigrants, but these guys are the hardest-working, most dedicated people … I’ve ever seen in my life.”

The Importance of the Immigration System for Agriculture

Considering that agriculture is a $374 billion sector and critical to American economy, its health depends majorly on a functioning immigration system.

Wall Street Journal writer Justin Lahart reported that, “The first impact of President Donald Trump’s changes to U.S. immigration policy will fall on businesses that grow, process or sell food. Recent history shows that labour shortages could drive up prices and labour costs and hurt profits …Little attention is being paid to the threat to food prices from a drop-in immigrant labour. What is known so far is generally anecdotal and regional. But the impact of a nationwide hit to the supply of workers could be large. Food price increases, which have been low, would boost already accelerating inflation.”

The Repercussions of the Policy Changes that Affect the Agriculture Industry

Being labour a major input for agriculture, and immigrants presenting the biggest work force in the industry, current policies are damaging to the economy.

One possible scenario would be for farmers to implement new technologies into their business, but bearing in mind the actual panorama, for some it would be impossible to invest in sophisticated state-of-the-art machines if commodity prices are falling and its ROI is not yet well proved.

Pondering the impacts above mentioned, it is up to the whole of the society to bear in mind this problematic and its consequences and act together to make it possible for the U.S. to keep qualified labour force in the farm scenario.

Opportunities for You

For more information and opportunities in relation to marketing, business development and funding within agriculture, visit our agriculture page or start a conversation with our Head of Events, Alfred Gilbert, below:

Alfred Gilbert
Head of Events
Challenge Advisory
Phone: 0207 096 1157

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Maria Onofrio

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