Immigration reform continues to be a hot topic on the political scene and a priority for farmers and ranchers. In a session at the 2017 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show, Tom Hertz of the Agriculture Department and Mark Delich of FWD.us discussed the economic and political realities of the current immigration system and the impact of proposed reforms.
Hertz, an economist at USDA’s Economic Research Service, explained trends in the farm workforce, including declining immigration rates and rising labor costs. Even though farm wages are up, the agriculture workforce still faces a labor deficit, and demand for workers continues to increase, said Hertz
Hertz outlined a recent USDA report, assessed the impact of expanding the H2A program versus increasing border security. According to USDA, H2A expansion over the long-term would increase the farm workforce and expand outputs and exports overall. Whereas, an enforcement-only approach would likely reduce both the workforce and overall ag output, hurting workers and farmers. USDA’s study is not designed to advocate for any particular policy approach, Hertz noted, but to simulate what the leading proposals could look like 15 years down the road.