Labor Issue Hits Home for Peach Growers, Consumers
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 6, 2013 – Fresh, juicy peaches are one of the most delicious things about summer. In a new video produced by the American Farm Bureau Federation, South Carolina peach farmer Chalmers Carr explained that without the foreign workers he needs to pick his crop, those peaches would never make it to the grocery store.
The video, released as part of the American Farm Bureau’s “Bring the Heat” grassroots campaign to engage with members of Congress during August recess, is available in broadcast quality for download at http://bit.ly/14uHw0g, or viewing at http://bit.ly/193td4w.
As the story points out, consumers who enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables have much at stake when the issue is ensuring the availability of America’s agriculture workforce. Carr said that without needed improvements to the agriculture labor program that would come as part of immigration reform, a lot of that fresh produce would have a tough time making it to local grocery stores.
“Labor is our No.1 input expense by far,” Carr said. “Forty percent of our cost of production is labor and without labor we could not harvest this crop. You cannot thin, harvest, pack peaches without manually having hands. There’s no machinery that can do this.”
The Senate immigration reform bill would improve the current system, called the H2-A program, so it works better for farmers and the workers. Carr said those improvements are desperately needed.
“We’ve had delays with workers probably about every other year, on average, getting workers here,” Carr said. “When you’re dealing with time-sensitive, perishable crops, that’s the difference in making money and not making money.”
The House of Representatives is still debating the issue. Carr said if the House drops the ball, the ramifications for farmers and consumers will be enormous.
“Your fruit is going to be harvested, one way or another, by a foreign national,” Carr said. “So what you have to make a decision about is if you want it harvested here in this country with our food safety regulations and our FDA governing how we grow our crops, versus having that foreign national harvest them in another country where you don’t have the same food safety protocols. That is not rhetoric. That is true.”
|Contacts:||Tracy Taylor Grondine