Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Congress mulls seasonal worker visa cap as immigration raids leave California farmers short of laborers

Increasing immigration raids in California are hurting the state's $47 billion agriculture industry, which provides more than half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables in the country.

About 1.5 million of California's 2 million farm laborers are undocumented, and they're increasingly staying home for fear of deportation. "More than 55 percent of 762 farmers and ranchers surveyed in a California Farm Bureau Federation report from October 2017 said half of their land continues to go unattended because of an ongoing labor shortage directly related to U.S. immigration policy," Kartikay Mehrotra reports for Bloomberg.

Congress is considering capping annual seasonal workers' visas at 410,000, in hopes of forcing undocumented workers to return to their native countries and apply for visas. That would devastate California's already-reeling agriculture industry, according to Tom Nassif, president of the Western Growers Association. California "is already losing acres of labor-intensive crops, including cherries, apples, peppers and berries to farms in Mexico, South and Central America and East Asia. After setting records for revenue every year in the six years to 2015, receipts fell 13 percent to $47 billion in 2016" because of the drought and the labor shortage, Mahrotra reports.

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