A decline of more than 325,000 U.S. farm workers over the past five years highlights the need to brings changes to farm labor laws, according to a grower’s group.
The 2017 Ag Census reported 2.41 million people worked on U.S. farms and ranches, a drop of about 325,000 compared with 2012.
“The release of the Census data shines a bright light on the importance of quickly resolving the U. S. agricultural worker shortage,” Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, said in a news release. “Without access to a ready, willing, able and reliable agricultural workforce in the U.S., crops don’t get planted or harvested timely. This increases American reliance on imported food.”
About half of the fresh fruit and a third of the vegetables consumed in the U.S. is imported, according to the release.
The lack of farm workers is one factor that keeps growers from planting more, Marsh said in the release.
A shortage of agricultural workers is one of the impediments to U. S. farm and ranch families sustainably producing a larger share of fruits and vegetables for domestic consumption.
“The Congress will need to work quickly to pass legislation and move it off to the president’s desk for signature before the election cycle kicks into high gear,” Marsh said. “Politicking can quickly stall positive momentum.”