WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a virtual press conference Wednesday, farmers, business owners, and mothers from across the nation urgently called for Congress to pass immigration reform to address mounting economic challenges – inflation, supply chain delays, and workforce shortages– that threaten American food security and impact affordability of common groceries.
Hosted by the Alliance for New Immigration Consensus (ANIC), panelists called for Congress to sharpen their pencils and finalize negotiations on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
“When you are a farmer, you set the market cost for the entire supply chain. The price of fruits and vegetables is set by market conditions,” said Lori Taylor, founder and CEO of The Produce Moms. “It is absolutely critical that we empower the beginning of the supply chain—the farmers—to improve as their efficiencies result in affordability of goods all the way down to households like yours and mine. The two most resilient communities I know are farmers and our moms, but no one can continue to fight these grocery prices we have now. Immigration reform without doubt will yield lower prices of goods at the grocery store.”
“Why would someone with a college degree immigrate to America to work at a greenhouse seasonally? I was looking for extra work to help my family back in Ukraine, to enjoy the safety and stability of the United States,” opened Alla Kureninova, a Ukrainian-American and Operations Manager at Natural Beauty Growers in South Dakota. “This is what H-2A and H-2B programs do: they change lives like mine, provide an honest way to come into the U.S. and support your families… Now as the manager of a greenhouse in South Dakota, labor has become our number one hardest to find resource. Without a workforce, businesses have no choice but to reduce production, make the supply of products limited, which leads to prices going up.”
On February 28, the National Immigration Forum published polling that found 8 in 10 voters want commonsense solutions, before the midterm elections, that include border security, a path to earn legal status for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and a legal and reliable workforce for America’s farmers and ranchers.
“Border patrol officers have told me that the ability for farmworkers to become legal reduced the amount of traffic that they would see in-between ports of entry,” said Doug Baker, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush for Homeland Security and Senior Director for Border and Transportation Security Policy. “The border is broken and it’s up to Congress to act to fix it. They could greatly enhance border security by creating worker programs for farmworkers.”
“The last significant restructuring of immigration laws happened 35 years ago. So much has changed since then. We need agriculture reforms that will provide a reliable workforce and address the challenges our growers face,” said Joel Anderson, the Executive Director of the Snake River Farmers Association in Idaho. “On behalf of our members and agricultural workers across the country, please help American farmers and ranchers. Please help them secure their future by getting immigration reform done this year.”
“Our family is six generations deep in agriculture in America,” said Tara Smith, partner of Smith Farms of Maine and Florida. “The process to acquire legal labor is becoming more and more difficult for growers. Our business in particular employs between 600 and 800 H-2A workers annually. We have to start the process to obtain these employees well in advance of our planting, and the risks continue to climb for the potential of a crop to be in the field and not have anyone to manage the production.”
Daniel Garza, the president of the LIBRE Initiative, moderated the panel. In his closing remarks, Garza noted that grassroots organizations will be focused this August on telling their stories in their communities across the nation to show Congress must act before the midterm election on immigration reforms that deliver reliability and certainty to our farmers and ranchers.
“As a coalition member of ANIC, immigration is a tough challenge we have set out to address,” said Garza. “Congress right now has a rare opportunity to take bipartisan action that helps farmers, such as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. But the clock is ticking. Our coalition seeks to encourage Congress to act now, hash out the last remaining sticking points, and finally take action to address the serious labor shortage.”
You can view a recording of the full press conference here. Speakers, and additional farmers and ag-industry leaders, are available for interview. The panelists were as follows:
- Daniel Garza, President, The LIBRE Initiative and ANIC coalition member
- Joel Anderson, Executive Director of the Snake River Farmers Association, Idaho
- Alla Kureninova, Operations Manager at Natural Beauty Growers and a US citizen who immigrated from Ukraine for work in South Dakota
- Lori Taylor, Founder and CEO of The Produce Moms
- Tara Smith, Partner of Smith Farms of Maine and Florida
- Doug Baker, Former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush for Homeland Security and Senior Director for Border and Transportation Security Policy, Leader at the Council on National Security and Immigration
To learn more about ANIC’s efforts, visit www.anic.co, and follow the conversation on social media channels with the hashtag #ANIC.