As farmers gather in Washington, D.C., today to share their stories of why a reliable agricultural workforce is a crucial part of immigration reform, the American Farm Bureau Federation is releasing three video stories that show the need for immigration reform is more than just hype. The videos, produced as part of the organization’s “The Heat is On” campaign to push Congress to act on immigration reform this year, will help drive the ag labor message home as more than 50 fly-in participants from 15 states visit Washington this week to urge Congress to take action now on immigration reform.
1. A Mushrooming Problem
In “Ag Labor ‘Mushrooming’ Problem” the latest video released by AFBF, farmer Ed Leo explains the challenge in finding workers to harvest mushrooms by hand. He needs workers year-round to harvest mushrooms for the fresh market.
Leo and two partners, including his son, operate a mushroom farm in Pennsylvania. Although they employ about 60 full-time people to harvest mushrooms, it’s been difficult for the Leos to find and hire additional workers that are needed due to immigration issues.
“Throughout the summer we had to harvest crops earlier than normal, which we don’t like to do,” said Leo. “Labor is getting more critical every month. The situation has been getting worse and worse over the last year or so,” he added.
Despite offering pay that is double what local fast-food employees earn, plus health benefits, paid vacation time and holidays, few domestic workers are interested in working on the farm.
“We’ve tried domestic American labor and it just doesn’t exist,” explained Leo.
Mechanized harvesting of mushrooms is not an option because fungi that start growing at the same time often vary in size and maturity level.
Like other farmers, Leo wants to employ legal workers. And he wants legislators to make sure there is a pathway for hiring enough legal workers to get his mushroom crop harvested on time.
“This is a very big deal for all of agriculture,” said Leo.
With immigration reform legislation implemented, Leo and other farmers would have one less thing to worry about.
“We can go back to the business of growing good, healthy mushrooms for consumers” once Congress acts, said Leo.
“Ag Labor ‘Mushrooming’ Problem” is available in broadcast quality for download at http://bit.ly/1gTRfT7 or viewing at http://bit.ly/18sR6vC.
2. Not so Peachy in South Carolina
In “Farmers Need Labor Reform” video, South Carolina peach farmer Chalmers Carr explains why reform of farm labor programs is so important to U.S. agriculture.
“Farmers Need Labor Reform” is available in broadcast quality for download at http://bit.ly/1eYpRij or viewing at http://bit.ly/17SDpqw.
3. Blue over Blueberries
In “Farm Labor Needs Are Tied to Immigration Reform” video, Oregon farmer Doug Krahmer talks about the challenge of finding enough pickers to harvest his 500 acres of blueberries and to help with the year-round maintenance of the plants.
“Farm Labor Needs Are Tied to Immigration Reform” is available in broadcast quality for download at http://bit.ly/16FcqOU or viewing at http://bit.ly/1btDhAe.
Additional information from AFBF regarding ag labor and immigration reform can be found at the FBACT Insider webpage at http://bit.ly/16gvZjq.