Groups cite lack of labor for spike in imported produce - The Packer

Groups cite lack of labor for spike in imported produce

03/18/2014 04:50:00 PM
Tom Karst

Labor shortages in the U.S. are a substantial reason for the increased growth of imported produce, a new study claims.

Titled “No Longer Home Grown,” the 28-page report was released by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, two groups advocating for immigration reform.

“American consumers want fresh U.S. grown fruits and vegetables, but our farmers don’t have the labor force available to meet that demand,” John Feinblatt, chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy, said in a news release. “This means more produce is imported, and our economy loses millions of dollars and thousands of jobs every year. We need to pass immigration reform now, so our food remains homegrown and our economy strong.”

The growth in volume of imported fresh produce from 1998 to 2012 totaled 38.8%, compared with 1.4% growth in domestic production over the same period. Imports accounted for 28% of all U.S. spending on fresh produce in 2010-12, up from 15.7% in 1998-2000.

Data for the report was compiled by Steven Broners, a senior economist at Welch Consulting, according to the release.

“On the issue of farm labor, we have a growing amount of evidence that all points in the same direction: Farmers and consumers both need responsible immigration reform,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in the release.

According the report:

  • Labor challenges and problems with the H-2A visa program are a key reason why growers have been unable to maintain their share of the domestic market;
  • As much as $3.3 billion in missed gross domestic product growth in 2012 was caused by a lack of agricultural labor, and accounts for $1.4 billion in farm income that wasn’t realized that year;
  • Imported produce eaten in the U.S. has grown by 79.3% in recent years; and
  • Fresh produce consumption in the U.S. has grown in recent years, but production levels have either barely grown or declined.


The report, according to the release, is part of the #iFarmImmigration campaign that has brought more than 70 of the largest agriculture groups together with the Partnership for a New American Economy to lobby for immigration reform.

Fred Leitz, chief executive officer of Leitz Farms LLC, Sodus, Mich., was quoted in the report about labor shortages in 2013 that left up a substantial portion of what he planted still in the ground.

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John Baillie    
Salinas Ca.  |  March, 18, 2014 at 06:26 PM

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California  |  March, 19, 2014 at 10:05 AM

Amen John! There is no labor shortage. There are millions of folks on unemployment and millions more on social assistance. They just don't want to work or aren't being made to work. I guarantee as soon as amnesty is granted, they will have an even more severe labor shortage. Perhaps they all forget what happened the last time amnesty was granted. There was a massive farm labor shortage.

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