Planting season started off difficult for many Indiana farmers with cold temperatures and too much moisture. Some Indiana farmers also struggled with not having the appropriate workforce.
Chuck Conner, a Benton County native and former Deputy Secretary for USDA, is the President and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. He told Hoosier Ag Today that agriculture labor and immigration is an issue that, if not fixed, will call into question whether American agriculture can continue to feed U.S. families at a reasonable price.
“We’ve got a guest worker program in this country that is totally inadequate to get us temporary labor to do the jobs in this country, on our farms, that Americans won’t do. We have an existing workforce on our farms and ranches that is predominantly made up of people who are no longer legally in this country, and some say those numbers could be as high as 70 percent of our workforce.”
According to Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron, Indiana farmers are facing a shortage of workers, and the H-2A guest worker program is not as efficient as it could be.
“I actually had a phone call a couple weeks ago from a farmer that does some vegetables, and he was actually having trouble getting his H-2A workers into Indiana. They were ready to be planting some of their crops and he needed the help.”
Kron says discussions regarding this need to happen sooner rather than later.
“The farmers that I talk to, they want a legal workforce here. So, we need to step back and just really evaluate this. How can we get workers here that want to come? We need to have a process to go through, but it needs to be an efficient process that they can be here in a timely manner.”
Conner says the only way to fix the issue is through a significant act of Congress with major immigration reform, and his hope continues to be that that will happen.