Once again farmers across Louisiana will need a steady, reliable supply of farm labor to help them in their continuing efforts to feed and clothe the world. And much of that labor will come in the form of migrant workers from Mexico.
Ask any Louisiana farmer, or any American farmer for that matter and he or she will tell you that without migrant labor U.S. agriculture won’t work.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. Why can’t they hire American workers?
Believe me when I say that over the years we’ve tried and the labor pool in that arena is virtually nonexistent. It’s a combination of factors ranging from social to economic, but the fact remains that local farm labor in many rural communities is now almost solely relegated to migrant and seasonal workers, the bulk of which come from Mexico.
Nationally it is estimated that the agricultural workforce consists of 1.83 million hired workers. Some have estimated that as much as 50 to 75 percent of the hired workers are not authorized to work in the United States. But that hasn’t slowed the need or the flow of workers from south of the border.
For years farm organizations have asked Congress to address the issue, calling on immigration reform that benefits everyone concerned. Agriculture isn’t the only profession migrant workers fill today. Hotel operators, restaurants, construction companies and home builders would all tell you the same thing. Domestic workers in their industry are hard to come by.
Because much agricultural work is seasonal, intermittent and physically demanding, agriculture does not attract a domestic workforce. Farmers and ranchers across the nation are in critical need of a solution that provides an effective, reliable, legal workforce to cultivate and harvest our crops and tend our livestock.
Congress needs to work on a real solution that would help all areas of agriculture get the necessary workers, including livestock and dairy producers who aren’t eligible to use the existing government program. The most important features of a solution for agriculture would be to recognize that many of our workforce want and need the ability to come to the United States, work on our farms and ranches and return to their home countries.
The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation will hold a labor conference Thursday, March 1, 2012, in an effort to help producers in Louisiana better deal with the issue of migrant labor. The meeting, which will feature speakers from the U.S. Department of Labor and labor consulting firms, will be held at the West Baton Rouge Conference Center beginning at 8 a.m.
For more information on registration and conference attendance, visit www.lfbf.org and click on “Commodity Department” under the “Divisions” link. The cost is $45 per person and includes lunch.