Thursday, June 14, 2012

Immigration policy changes under consideration could have major impacts on U.S. agriculture

Four writers for the Amber Waves publication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture have dissected the variety of proposed changes to U.S. immigration law as it relates to foreign-born farm workers. Steven Zahniser, Tom Hertz, Peter Dixon and Maureen Rimmer of USDA's Economic Research Service comprehensively analyze current law and what possible changes might mean.

"Some of these proposals would create additional opportunities for persons from other countries to work legally in U.S. agriculture, while others would use different methods to enforce existing U.S. immigration restrictions. Any of these proposals, if enacted, are likely to have a substantial impact on U.S. agriculture and the market for hired farm labor. Labor is a major input for many agricultural sectors, and persons not authorized to work legally in the United States constitute a large share of the farmworkers employed by U.S. agriculture."

They note that labor accounts for about 17 percent of agriculture's variable production expenses and roughly 40 percent for fruit and vegetable farms and nurseries." The chart below is helpful in understanding how that is substantial for some crops.

1 comment:

Michele Hays said...

The flip side of this policy is that farm workers, like most workers in the foodstream, aren't paid a living wage and typically don't receive any benefits - especially immigrant workers.

See this recent study by Food Chain Workers: