10 May 2010

American immigration reform needed for agriculture workers

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American farmers are lobbying Congress to pass a new “AgJobs” bill to give the agricultural industry access to desperately needed foreign workers or production levels will be cut back.

American Immigration

The asparagus industry in California has been affected by the shortage of workers: a shortage that could be aided by improvements to American Immigration law, farmers say.

Most Americans shy away from physically-demanding agricultural work, such as harvesting vegetables and picking fruit, with the industry relying for the most part on foreign workers, some of whom may be illegal.
Farmers say a crackdown on illegal American immigration combined with changes to an American visa program for temporary workers could make it even harder for them to find reliable employees and force them to cut back on production.

The proposed "AgJobs" bill would enable those who have worked in American agriculture for at least 150 days in the previous two years to obtain legal status.

Farmers also say the American Visa program for temporary workers urgently needs to be simplified.

Asparagus production in California’s Imperial Valley is one example of the shortage in workers. The area planted with asparagus has dropped from 786 acres in 2006 to 373 acres in 2008 because farms couldn't get enough workers to cut, sort and pack the vegetable - all of which must be done by hand.

More than half of the crop workers hired in America between 2005 and 2007 were in the country illegally, according to the federal government's National Agricultural Worker Survey.

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