E-Verify is a federal, online system to determine authorization to work in the U.S. That seems like a good idea, and it would be if agriculture had access to a legal workforce and a workable visa program. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Requiring agricultural employers to use e-Verify without assuring that a workable guest worker program is in place could have a significant, negative impact on U.S. farm production, threatening the livelihoods of many farmers and ranchers in labor-intensive agriculture.
Impact on Ag and Consumers
Enforcement-only immigration reform would cripple agriculture production in America. A Farm Bureau commissioned study shows enforcement only immigration reform, including mandatory e-Verify, would cause production to drop by $60 billion and food prices to rise 5 to 6 percent. The lowest income consumers would be hit hardest. Americans’ diets, particularly those of low-income households, fall well short of government recommendations in the quantity of fruits and vegetables consumed. USDA ERS research shows that today, fruits and vegetables account for 16 to 18 percent of food spending for at-home consumption in an average low-income household. (This number should be 40 to 50 percent to meet government consumption recommendations for fruits and vegetables.) Increasing food prices due to mandatory e-Verify would only make that goal less obtainable.
Farm Bureau believes any federal mandates on employers to implement e-Verify must:
- Be based on an employment eligibility verification system that is simple, conclusive, and timely;
- Provide an affirmative defense for employers acting in good faith;
- Allow status adjustment for workers not authorized prior to implementation; and
- Be preceded by full implementation of a usable agricultural worker program.
Farm Bureau opposes any mandate on employers to use e-Verify until an acceptable agriculture worker program that allows work authorization for workers not authorized currently is in place.