News / USA

US Farmers Back Immigration Reform

US Farmers Back Immigration Reformi
|| 0:00:00
X
December 31, 2012 2:08 PM
Immigration reform is expected to be back on the agenda in the new U.S. Congress, after an election in which voters with Latino roots decisively supported President Obama's bid for a second term. Most of the U.S. farm workforce is made up of illegal Latino immigrants, despite a guest-worker program which would allow them to enter and work in the U.S. legally. However, farmers say that system is broken. VOA's Steve Baragona reports.
North Carolina tobacco farmer Billy Carter is a rarity among American farmers. He hires Mexican workers legally, through the government's H-2A visa program.

But this year was a good example of its shortcomings. The program requires farmers to set workers' start date months in advance.

The weather has its own schedule. A rainy summer meant the harvest arrived early; earlier, in fact, than his harvest crew.

And that meant lost tobacco.

“You’re looking at a crop that is done, all but the harvest, and you don’t have the laborers to bring it in,” Carter says.

Immigration reform

With most of the U.S. farm workforce made up of illegal immigrants, farmers like Carter want the next Congress to fix the nation's immigration laws to ensure a reliable, legal labor force.

Immigration reform is expected to be back on the agenda in the next U.S. Congress, after an election in which voters with Hispanic roots decisively supported President Obama's bid for a second term.

However, critics say farmers should be raising wages and improving conditions for legal, domestic workers rather than turning to immigrants to do the difficult and dangerous work of agriculture.

Complicated system

Many farmers opt out of the government's seasonal agricultural worker program and the risk of lost crops isn't the only reason.

“It’s definitely fair to say the H-2A system is complicated," says Lee Wicker with the North Carolina Growers Association.

Employers must demonstrate no American workers are available. Government-inspected housing must be provided. Rules for fair wages, worker safety and more require more paperwork.

NCGA will handle the bureaucracy for about $1,000 per worker.

Wicker warns farmers the system is complex and expensive.
    
“If you have a way to harvest your crops without going into the H-2A program, you should do that as long as you can," he says.

Legal labor scarce

Most farmers are taking his advice. Government figures show H-2A workers make up just 10 percent of the agricultural labor force.

Farmers say they want to hire legal workers, but Americans apparently don’t want the work.

In 2007, the North Carolina Farm Bureau tried recruiting workers with radio ads and a toll-free number.

According to N.C. Farm Bureau President Larry Wooten, the ads told “anybody that wanted to work in agriculture [to] give us a call on this 800 number. We’d try to get you a job placed working in agriculture. We had about three calls."

Lower wages

There are good reasons for that lack of interest, according to Eric Ruark at the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

“I agree with the grower who is claiming he can’t find a worker who is willing to take below-living wage to endure brutal conditions which sometimes may be unsanitary and unsafe," he says. "People aren’t going to line up to take those jobs and we shouldn’t expect that they would.”

Ruark says raising farm workers’ wages by a third or more would not put farmers out of business or cause major pain at the grocery store.

He says the rights of American and immigrant workers are better protected when farmers use the H-2A program and that, if growers can get away without using the H-2A program, they don't have to pay workers as well.

"We can see that as very simple logic," Ruark says. "And they see the simple logic, but it’s unacceptable. And it’s not only illegal, it’s unethical behavior.”

Legitimate concerns

Farmer Billy Carter chooses to hire H-2A workers because, despite the program's flaws, he gets a reliable, and legal, supply of good workers. And he can afford it for his high-value crop.

But he says Congress needs to fix it because it doesn't work for many other farmers.

“But it’s such a political football, and there are legitimate concerns on both sides of the equation that, at this point, are not being addressed, and certainly won’t be in the short term,” Carter says.

That's why he doubts the new political season's harvest will include significant immigration reform.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Delmar Jackson from: Miami
December 31, 2012 7:40 PM
I wish to applaud Mr Baragona. This is the first article on immigration and farm workers I have read all year long that mentioned the Farm worker visa program. He also is to be applauded for using a balanced source of information by taking the time to include someone from FAIR who is on the side of less USA immigration. Nearly all immigration articles in the media are one sided, and are on the side of those that want another amnesty and to deonize all who want less immigration.
The farm worker visa program is not perfect, and can be made better, but it is a better solution than farmers hiring illegal workers via crooked labor contractors that abuse and exploit the workers.
I would like to see some reporting on how the USDA seemed to have stopped focusng on mechanization of farm work. Many western countries that have difficulty hiring farm labor use mechanization very sucessfully.
One of the biggest road blocks to pasing e verify in Florida this year was a republican senator that is also a millionaire blueberry farmer that said in public he needs illegals as only they have the skills to pick his berries. if you go on youtube you will see videos of a dozen different mechanized blueberry pickers needing no illegals.
The farm visa program should be made better and we should stop talking about more amnesties unless there is enforcement to keep more illegals from coming, and not just across the borders, maost illegals coming now are indians and chinese overstaying their visas.


by: Allen Bunch
December 31, 2012 3:10 PM
You better believe the farmers do not want to lose their slave like labor. The only reason they cannot find legal workers is because they refuse to pay competitive wages like other businesses.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid