E-Verify is a federal, online system to determine authorization to work in the U.S. Unfortunately, while E-Verify may not adversely affect some parts of the U.S. economy, it could have dire impacts on agriculture due to the lack of U.S. workers and the absence of a workable visa program. 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, not only threatening the livelihoods of many farmers and ranchers in labor-intensive agriculture but jeopardizing as well the health of the rural economy, where agriculture plays an important role.
Impact on Ag and Consumers
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 reason is simple: with fewer and fewer Americans opting to work on farms, American agriculture increasingly depends on workers from other countries to harvest our crops. Without those workers – who are particularly important in the fruit and vegetable sector and in dairy – American farms would be in jeopardy. Moreover, the US Department of Agriculture is encouraging greater consumption of fruits and vegetables. 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 is in place that provides for future flow of guest workers and allows work authorization for workers not currently authorized .