New Report Shows Labor Challenges Lead to Loss in GDP, Farm Income as U.S. Farmers Lose Market Share of Imports

The Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform today released a new report showing how American families are eating more imported fresh produce today than ever before, in substantial part because U.S. fresh produce growers lack enough labor to expand their production and compete with foreign importers.

“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. “This means more produce is imported, and our economy loses millions of dollars and thousands of jobs every year. We need to pass immigration reform now, so our food remains homegrown and our economy strong.”

“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 American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, a cattle and rice farmer from Texas.

Key Findings

  • In recent years, the share of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed by American families that was imported has grown by 79.3 percent.
  • In America, our production of fresh produce and the demands of consumers are increasingly out-of-sync. While the amount of fresh produce and vegetables consumed by Americans has grown in recent years, production levels have either barely grown or declined.
  • Had U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable growers been able to maintain the domestic market share they held from 1998-2000, their communities would have enjoyed a substantial economic boost, resulting in an estimated $4.9 billion in additional farming income and 89,300 more jobs in 2012 alone. U.S. GDP would have been $12.4 billion higher in 2012.
  • Labor challenges faced by U.S. farmers and the inadequacies of the H-2A visa program are a key reason why American farmers have been unable to maintain their share of the domestic market. Labor alone can explain as much as $3.3 billion in missed GDP growth in 2012. It also accounts for $1.4 billion in farm income that wasn’t realized that year.

The data for this report was compiled by Steven Broners, Ph.D., a Senior Economist at Welch Consulting.

The report is being released in conjunction with a panel discussion at the National Press Club at 9 a.m. today featuring major farmers from around the country, including: 

  • Chalmers Carr – President & CEO, Titan Farms, South Carolina
  • Russell W. Boening – Owner Operator, Loma Vista Farms & Boening Bros. Dairy, Texas
  • Carlos Castaneda – Owner Operator, Castaneda & Sons, Inc. & Mission Labor, Inc., California
  • Mary Kraft, Owner, CFO and Human Resource Manager, Badger Creek Farm and Quail Ridge Dairy, Fort Morgan, Colorado
  • Chuck Conner (moderator of the panel) – President & CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

See the full report, “No Longer Home Grown: How Labor Shortages are Increasing America’s Reliance on Imported Fresh Produce and Slowing U.S. Economic Growth.”

This event and report are part of the #iFarmImmigration campaign that brings more than 70 of the largest agriculture groups together with the Partnership for a New American Economy to tell Washington that we need immigration reform now.