How the Immigration Crisis Hurts Heartland Farmers

Farms far from border states struggle to find laborers

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 18, 2014 6:00 PM CDT
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(Newser) – Immigration is a hot topic for many Americans—but for US farmers, especially those far from the Mexico border, it's a problem that needs a quick solution, McClatchy reports. "Because we’re not a border state, it’s definitely harder to get people over this far from the border to work," says the owner of South Carolina's Titan Farms, the biggest peach grower on the East Coast. "There's truly not enough farmworkers now, legal or illegal." Why not? Because immigrant workers who came over years ago are getting too old to work, and younger ones are being held up by red tape, says McClatchy.

Two of the more cumbersome federal programs are for H-2A and I-9 temporary visas, which include identity and minimum-wage requirements that at least some farm owners prefer to avoid. Most Americans won't do the jobs, farmers say, and seasonal harvesting jobs won't wait: "When it’s time to harvest, it’s time to harvest," says a farming rep. In a new ad produced by a farming group, a farmer talks about destroying farmland due to a labor shortage and urges Capitol Hill to pass an immigration bill, USA Today reports. But Washington lawmakers have dropped the political hot potato for now, going on August recess without a solution—and analysts expect little more leading up to November's elections.

A farmer in Clear Brook, Va., on Wednesday, July 2, 2014.
A farmer in Clear Brook, Va., on Wednesday, July 2, 2014.   (AP Photo/The Winchester Star, Ginger Perry)
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We're small businesses, so we tend to be politically conservative. And yet we're conflicted, in a way, because we need [immigrant laborers] and we respect these people. - Mark Gilson, owner of a nursery in Ohio

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