Video: Farm labor shortage vexes farmers
A new video produced by the American Farm Bureau Federation shines a spotlight on the frustrations of the nation's farmers in finding workers to harvest their crops. While the video highlights peach production in Georgia, it also outlines the scope of the farm labor problem across the U.S.
Hiring a seasonal skilled workforce to bring crops in from the fields to America's tables has proved to be difficult if not impossible for farmers. That's why many farmers rely heavily on a program called H-2A, through which the federal government grants foreign nationals short-term visas to help harvest crops.
'This is a serious issue for farmers across America,' said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. 'If you have a crop that's ready and your harvest window is narrow and your workers show up late - you're going to lose your crop.'
'We're going to have to make a choice,' Duvall added. 'We either have to import our labor - workers to harvest our crops - or we'll have to import our food.'
An informal survey of state Farm Bureaus revealed that farmers in at least 22 states using the H-2A program have been affected by administrative delays that have caused workers to arrive days and even weeks late - leading to a variety of fruits, vegetables and other crops rotting in the field.
The situation is dire for Georgia peach farmer Robert Dickey. He and numerous other farmers have found there's simply too much red tape, too much paperwork and too many delays associated with the H-2A program.
'It could cost us our farm in one season,' Dickey said.
Farm Bureau is calling for Congress to pass responsible immigration reform that provides farmers access to a legal and stable workforce.