Every year for decades we've been hearing from farmers that impending "labor shortages" will endanger the nation's food supply, their crops will rot in the fields, force them to move operations out of the country, force the American people to rely even more on imports, etc., etc., etc.
And how many agriculture crises have we seen during this period? How many dramatic milk shortages? Lack of produce that made the years-old horror story of the dreaded $5 head of lettuce a reality?
The Wisconsin Radio Network's Jackie Johnson seems to think that 2014 should be no different than all the other years we've heard complaining from an industry so addicted to cheap foreign labor that nothing but more of it can satisfy its cravings.
“Agriculture has a need for labor workers, especially Wisconsin’s livestock and dairy farms,” said Karen Gefvert of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. Farmers need to know that their employees can be depended upon to get the job done, she noted.
“We’re talking about taking care of animals and that has to happen 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.” So, Gefvert says, “It is not easy work and farmers are looking for a labor force that is going to work hard.”
Nobody is arguing against the use of foreign workers to do what is readily acknowledged to be back-breaking work; just make sure they are here legally. And the way to do that is with the H-2A visa program that allows farmers to bring in an unlimited number of temporary foreigner laborers. These visas can be renewed and further, it has been shown that workers brought in under this decades old program are far better off than illegal workers in terms of wages and living conditions.
Farmers do have a legitimate beef that the H-2A program is somewhat cumbersome, but rather than complain about it year in and year out, why not band together and demand that their members of Congress streamline the visas so that they can always count on a plentiful labor supply and the peace of mind that comes with working within the law?
Some in Congress have proposed an agricultural guest worker program that allows foreigner workers to later apply for permanent legal residence. That's a bad idea because these workers eventually would leave the fields and move into non-farming jobs to compete with Americans. This is what happened when President Reagan in 1986 signed the infamous "on-time-only" amnesty for 2.7 million illegal aliens, many of them farm workers. Once they became legalized, they left the fields and fanned out into cities across the nation to take jobs with shorter hours that paid far better than what they had earned in agriculture.
A "win" for illegal aliens, but a major loss for many Americans whose own search for a better life remains a major obstacle to the cheap labor lobby.