The Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform released a report Tuesday entitled “No Longer Home Grown: How Labor Shortages are Increasing America’s Reliance on Imported Fresh Produce and Slowing U.S. Economic Growth.”
The report found that the share of fresh fruits and vegetables imported and consumed by American families has grown by almost 80 percent in recent years and that while fresh produce consumption in the United States has grown, production levels have been near stagnant or declining.
“American consumers want fresh U.S grown fruits and vegetables, but our farmers don’t have the labor force available to meet that demand,” said John Feinblatt, Chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy. “We need to pass immigration reform now, so our food remains homegrown and our economy strong.”
The report is part of the #iFarmImmigration campaign launched last month by the American Farm Bureau Federation and more than 70 other agriculture organizations. “On the issue of farm labor, we have a growing amount of evidence that all points in the same direction: Farmers and consumers both need responsible immigration reform,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.
Four farmers representing different areas of the country appeared at the National Press Club Tuesday morning to talk about the report’s findings and present the “Farmers’ Case for Immigration Reform.”
The panel included (left to right) Chalmers Carr from South Carolina, Mary Kraft of Colorado, Russell Boening of Texas, and Carlos Castaneda from California.
Russell, who is a state director with the Texas Farm Bureau, says the current H2A system doesn’t work. “On our operation – a full time farm, dairy, beef operation – it hasn’t worked for us at all because of needing full time workers,” he said. “We need some type of new worker visa program that would work for us who need full time people.”
Listen to or download comments each farmer made after the Press Club appearance:
Chalmers Carr – Titan Farms, South Carolina Mary Kraft - Badger Creek Farm and Quail Ridge Dairy, Colorado Russell Boening - Loma Vista Farms & Boening Brothers Dairy, Texas Carlos Castaneda – Castaneda & Sons, California
Photo album from Press Club event