By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Arizona Agriculture needs a reliable, legal labor force. As Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers earlier said, “My industry and others need legal access to labor pools that are seasonal, short and long term. These pools will not be sourced from this country. This is an essential fact. You can tell me to pay more, to use convicts, to hire more students and you can tell me technology will solve my problems. In short, without respect or knowledge for my industry you can presume to tell me my business. Fine – we can debate all of this, but it won’t change the essential fact of a need for immigrant labor in Arizona and the rest of the country.”
To highlight the critical need for Ag labor, Arizona Farm Bureau shares a list of bullets as to the critical need for available labor impacts caused by labor shortages.
- During the height produce harvest in Yuma, Arizona as many as 10,000 to 20,000 seasonal laborers are needed to harvest the produce that’s shipped all over the country during winter. If the crops can’t be harvested they will perish in the field.
- Crops such as chilies that naturally do well in the southwest, but are labor intensive, are not planted due to fears of not being able to harvest them. This diminishes the home-grown supply of such foodstuffs and increases their cost.
- Farmers scramble in various agricultural enterprises to secure the needed labor. If we can’t fill jobs we must reduce our business or we are out of business.
- Agriculture cannot create a labor supply and must rely on government policies to impact labor flows.
- Ag businesses that would otherwise expand are hesitant to expend new business investment with the cloud of inadequate labor availability hanging over them. This reduces jobs and other economic activity.
- Seasonal and long-term agriculture laborers’ skills are developed over a period of time and are considered “highly” skilled abilities.
- Cost to a region and/or state’s economy of un-harvested crops runs in the billions and has an economic trickle-down impact to all areas of a regional and local economy including lost wages and higher food costs.
Food security is as important as national security. A country that cannot feed itself is at risk. If labor is not available to harvest crops, America must go elsewhere for the foods we love.