Today’s Topic: Agriculture needs a workable guest worker program

By on October 25, 2011

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

Southern Farm Network logoSeveral states have passed laws requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify program to make sure immigrant workers are in the U.S. legally. But in at least one of those states, that action has led to shortages of farm labor.

Georgia’s economy is projected to take a $391 million hit and lose more than 3,200 jobs because of shortages of farm labor, according to a report by the University of Georgia.

Commissioner Troxler says Georgia’s problem illustrates why the country needs an affordable and workable program guest worker program for agriculture. The nature of agricultural production creates a lot of demand for labor. Realistically, there’s no way to meet that demand with U.S. workers alone, even though federal programs give Americans first crack at agricultural jobs.

The U.S. needs legal guest workers, but the current federal guest worker programs – H-2A and H-2B – are broken. The U.S. Department of Labor’s implementation of these programs has made them increasingly less workable.

Commissioner Troxler and other state agriculture commissioners and secretaries from across the country spent a good deal of time talking about this topic at their annual meeting in September. They came up with a list of things they’d like to see in a new program. There must be some changes to make it more workable and affordable for farmers.

Click below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda talk about these necessary changes and what could happen if efforts to reform guest worker programs fail.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

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