Billy Carter, a tobacco farmer in North Carolina, is something of a rarity among American farmers, given that he hires workers from Mexico entirely legally thanks to the government’s H-2A visa program. The bad news is that the program is not without its shortcomings, as last year proved without a doubt.
The program forces farmers to have to set the schedules of their workers’ start date several months in advance, something that is a little difficult to do given that the weather does not work to anyone’s schedule other than its own. The harvest arrived early in 2012 because of a rainy summer and thus earlier than Carter’s crew, resulting in the farm losing tobacco. “You’re looking at a crop that is done, all but the harvest, and you don’t have the laborers to bring it in,” Carter notes.
With the great majority of the farm workforce in the United States comprising of illegal immigrants, farmers such as Carter are hoping that the next Congress will finally fix the immigration laws of the US in order to ensure that they have a reliable and legal workforce.
US immigration reform is expected to be once more back on the agenda in the new US Congress, following an election in which President Obama was assisted with his re-election thanks to decisive support from Hispanic voters. Critics, however, argue that farmers should be improving conditions and raising wages for domestic, legal workers instead of using immigrants for low paid, difficult and often dangerous work.