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February 11, 2014

Study Substantiates Need for Proper Labor Reform

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

 
The American Farm Bureau recently commissioned a study that lays out four scenarios of how Congress could act on immigration reform, and how that would affect the entire agriculture sector. Seanica Otterby has the story.
Otterby:This study, Gauging the Farm Sector’s Sensitivity to Immigration Reform, is an update to a study conducted eight years ago. One scenario in the study was an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform. Farm Bureau immigration specialist Kristi Boswell says the study results show that approach would be devastating to agriculture if put into effect.
Boswell:The study estimates 30- to 60-billion dollars in economic losses for agriculture production, and 5 to 6-percent increase in food prices. So it does affect not only the producer side of things, but the consumer side as well.
Otterby:Boswell says the livestock industry wasn’t contemplated in the previous study.
Boswell:This time it found dramatic impacts of enforcement only on immigration. There would be production losses of 13 to 27-percent in the livestock sector alone.
Otterby:Farmers would welcome domestic workers, but Boswell says Americans have outgrown crop work.
Boswell:I use me as an example. I grew up on a farm. I love agriculture and am still involved in the industry, but I didn’t return to the farm. That’s the trends at an owner-manager level, let alone a crop worker level, who are out really doing that manual labor of picking strawberries and cutting lettuce.
Otterby:If Congress doesn’t act on immigration reform, Boswell says there will be more labor shortages and market instability.
Boswell:We can’t sustain in that environment, and so we will get to the point that instead of importing our labor, we’re importing our food.
Otterby:Boswell says ag labor reform must be done right so there’s a solution to farmers’ short-term and long-term needs. Seanica Otterby, Washington.

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