Industry leaders at all levels of the food supply chain in the United States met in Provo to talk about the fact that immigration reform needs to be progressed now and the negative impact that the current system has on the nation’s food industry.
Staffers from the offices of Representatives Chris Stewart and Jason Chaffetz met with Utah Farm Bureau, Utah Food Retailers Association, Utah Restaurant Association and Utah Manufacturers Association representatives to discuss the urgent need for the United States to undertake immigration reform. Utah farmers and ranchers such as Springville’s Jake Harward spoke about the existing employment system and how it is not so much fractured as completely broken as a result of the massive shortage of people willing to work on farms.
Harward says that despite massive advertising and offering wages that are well above minimum wage, workers in the United States are simply not interested in jobs in agriculture, making a mockery of the claim that immigrants would be taking American jobs. “The argument that we’re taking jobs away from others just doesn’t fly in my mind,” Harward says. He grows pumpkins, corn and other row crop fruits and vegetables in Utah.
The H-2A visa program is costing farmers millions of dollars in lost revenue. Workers are arriving in the United States an average of 22 days late as the result of bureaucratic delays, according to a National Council of Agricultural Employers survey. This translates into a national revenue loss of almost $320 million.