Foreign labor a must for Texas agriculture

By Gary Joiner

There’s a labor shortage on America’s farms.

Many growers who need workers to plant, tend and harvest crops can’t find local residents to fill the jobs. They’re simply not interested. Maybe the work is too hard? Too demanding? Or it could be the stigma associated with farm work. The are other options that are easier for most.

So farmers in Texas and across the country turn to foreign farmworkers. It’s called the H-2A program. It provides access to a stable and legal workforce when the program works properly.

But this year, the program isn’t working well. H-2A processing and visa delays are costing farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business. Bureaucratic paperwork keeps piling up. And agriculture’s headache keeps growing.

This isn’t a small problem. Last year, U.S. growers requested more than 145,000 workers. About 10 percent of farm jobs are estimated to be filled by H-2A labor. And right now is a period of peak demand for H-2A workers.

Federal officials announced this week a new online approval platform that should expedite H-2A processing. Let’s hope so. Because visa approval delays have gone on far too long. Crops are rotting on the vine, in the tree and in the fields. Delays of 30 days or more are causing worker shortages in Texas and in more than 20 other states.

It’s good H-2A processing has entered the 21st Century with new digital elements. Local labor’s unwillingness to work on a nearby farm—that’s a reality that’s not changing anytime soon.

Gary Joiner

Gary Joiner is the senior associate director of Public Relations for Texas Farm Bureau.

2 Responses to “Foreign labor a must for Texas agriculture”

  1. Dewitt wood says:

    In your artical on the lack of farm labor , I would like to suggest what I think is the biggest problem. Our current welfare system creates a labor vacuum that drawers Mexican workers like air into a vacuum. The system basically says. ” if you don’t want to work we will send you a check ” I hope Farm Bureau editorials are not starting to be politically correct. Thank you for your time. DeWitt Wood

    • Gene Hall says:

      Mr. Wood – I appreciate your comments on the immigration piece. Farm Bureau policy favors a legal and workable guest worker program. The problem of which you speak is difficult and it’s hard to imagine how it could be resolved quickly enough to help farmers who are stuck in a real labor shortage. In the meantime, many parts of agriculture will move to other countries without a reliable source of labor. Political correctness has created a mess, no doubt of that. Our policy, developed by farmers and ranchers, calls for us to seek a solution to the country’s farm labor crisis.

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