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Rick Worthington Agriculture Labor Issues
by Rick Worthington, click here for bio

Program: Farm and Ranch Report
Date: June 13, 2018

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Agriculture is in the midst of a labor crisis that’s only getting worse.

Ag groups have been pushing Congress to fix the immigration system for the last two decades. Paul Schlegel with the American Farm Bureau says it’s past time for Congress to get the immigration system overhauled.

He says one of the first things to decide is how to grant legal status to the workforce that’s already in the country.

"We are now dependent, to a large degree, on hundreds of thousands of workers who would like to get legal status and we want to get them legal status, so stabilization of our existing workforce is a principal element that has to be addressed, and, for the future, we have to have a guest worker program that embraces all of agriculture, that’s affordable, that’s not bureaucratic, that gets employers workers when they need them."

He says one of the main concerns, is that Ag labor be included in an immigration reform package.

It’s an affordable program, and it moves to the Department of Agriculture, it’s less expensive for growers, so there are very, very many ways that the guest worker program is positive. The other aspect, our short-term issue on stabilization of the existing workforce, the bill falls short and we have been in ongoing discussions with the chairman and his staff. It’s not frankly where we’d like it to be at the moment, but, we certainly want to make sure that if the House passes any kind of legislation, they have something on agriculture.

So - why is Immigration such a big Ag issue? The USDA says some 50-70 percent of farm laborers in the country today are unauthorized workers.

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