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Common Dreams

US Agriculture Industry in Trouble as Migrant Labor Dwindles

Common Dreams staff

Harsh anti-immigration policies in the US and more job opportunities in Mexico are factors which have begun to affect the US agricultural industry in negative ways -- less migrant labor to exploit.

According to McClatchy news today, migrant workers traveling from Mexico previously consisted of more than 60 percent of US farm-workers -- jobs which unemployed people in the US are increasingly less willing to do. As less workers are willing to cross the border, farmers in the US are beginning to feel the pinch.

The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates a $5 billion to $9 billion annual loss in the produce-industry due to a recent labor shortage, as growers cannot keep up with the harvest.

According to McClatchy, many say a solution could include an overhaul of what is know as the 'H-2A federal guest worker program' which allows employers to hire temporary foreign workers to fill seasonal labor shortages. An overhaul would mean allowing visiting farm-workers in the US to work towards legal immigration status and thus a more promising opportunity.

However, currently growers already largely avoid the program, claiming the process is too time consuming, according to a recent survey by the National Council of Agricultural Employers.

Additionally, the growing labor shortage has also begun to negatively affect surrounding communities, as convenience stores, gas stations and restaurants that cater to farm-workers have begun to lose business and are increasingly forced to to close or fire local employees.

Last year, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia publicly requested Georgia residents to start taking jobs in the fields but the initiative fell flat when many rejected the 'grueling nature of the work', according to the McClatchy report.

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