The produce industry faces a challenge everyday to find a stable, legal workforce. Domestic workers who can’t or won’t do the job, and bureaucratic foreign guest worker programs that fail to deliver needed workers combine to make labor the number one challenge for U.S. produce growers.
The need for long-term, major changes to our nation’s immigration system is readily apparent yet for years, Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform in spite of the obvious dysfunction in America’s immigration policies. With immigration reform in limbo, fruit and vegetable growers and consumers pay the price of an inadequate and uncertain labor force.
In 2013, progress was made with the Senate passing comprehensive immigration reform to stabilize the current agriculture workforce and create a reliable guest worker program for the future. The House of Representatives took steps toward reform with action in the House Judiciary Committee, but failed to deliver a bill to the House floor with strongly polarized debate killing chances for immigration reform in the House. While the President has continued to state his intention to move forward with Executive Branch action, the produce industry is still in need of fundamental legislative reform that can only come from Congress.
United Fresh is working with the Administration whenever possible on presidential initiatives to ease the ag labor crisis. However, relief through a patchwork of executive orders could easily evaporate. We need an overhaul of an immigration system that is deeply flawed, including a path to legal status for our long-time workforce and a future guest worker program to meet future labor needs. Congress needs to pass legislation to prevent further damage to American businesses and rising costs to consumers.
Agriculture Workforce Coalition
United Fresh is a founding member of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, which represents a broad cross section of agricultural employers. As the unified voice of agriculture, AWC is working to ensure that farmers have access to a stable and skilled workforce both now and in the future.
Founding Members of AWC:
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Nursery & Landscape Association
U.S. Apple Association
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
Western Growers Association
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
Western United Dairymen
National Milk Producers Federation
For more information, please visit the AWC website.
Additional Immigration Resources
AWC Statement on Immigration Executive Action (November 20, 2014)
“The Need for a Market Based Agricultural Worker Program” (November 18, 2014)
Letter on Multi-Industry Standards for Immigration Reform (February 25, 2014)