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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid