U.S. industry fears immigration policy will hike labour shortage

DES MOINES, Iowa — The irony is hard to ignore.

Rural Americans strongly supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, partly because of his hard-line stance on immigrants and threats to build a wall at the Mexican border.

Meanwhile, farmers and businesspeople in rural America rely heavily on immigrant labour.

In fact, many farms and companies need more foreign workers, not less.

“We have a serious worker shortage in agriculture, in general, and the pork industry is no different,” Dustin Baker, the National Pork Producers Council’s deputy director for economics and domestic production, said during an interview at the World Pork Expo held in early June in Des Moines.

“A supply of domestic workers just does not exist. In talking to our (pork) producers, they cannot find an American worker for these jobs.”

The worker shortage stretches up the value chain, from managing pigs in Iowa barns to meat cutting jobs in the world’s largest pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina.

As an example of the shortage, Iowa Select Farms, the largest pork producer in the state, lists 114 job vacancies on its website. Almost all of the posted jobs are for a sow farm technician.

Baker said it’s difficult to know what percentage of pork industry workers are immigrants, but it is “significant.”

“On the farm it’s mostly Hispanic labour. In the packing facilities it’s been a mix of Hispanic and Southeast Asian labourers.”

The dairy sector does have data on immigrant labour. In 2015, the National Milk Producers Federation released the results of a dairy farm survey:

  • Fifty-one percent of all dairy labourers in the United States are immigrants.
  • Farms that employ immigrants produce 80 percent of America’s milk.
  • A complete loss of immigrant labour would cause one in six dairy farms to close and cost the U.S. $32 billion in lost economic output.

Baker said the labour shortage in dairy and the fruit and vegetable industries garners most of the attention in Washington, but the pork sector also has challenges.

“Labour is quickly becoming a hot topic for us, particularly after the election.”

John Weber, NPPC past-president and a hog producer in western Iowa, said the pork industry also relies on immigrants for jobs closely related to the sector, such as construction of hog barns.

Pork producers are so dependent on foreign workers that the NPPC is lobbying federal politicians on be-half of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

“The system should contain workable solutions that allow un-documented workers already in the United States to continue working,” the NPPC says on its website.

Hog farmers and the entire agriculture sector do have a powerful ally in Washington — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue — who might persuade the White House to adopt more progressive policies on immigration.

“In order for us to have the most affordable food supply in the world, we have to have a viable workforce,” said Baker, who works out of the NPCC office in Washington.

“Secretary Perdue, he understands the need to have a viable workforce.”

Purdue may get it, but in 2016 Trump promised to crack down and kick many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the U.S.

Of those undocumented immigrants, the Pew Research Centre says eight million are part of the workforce.

Luckily for those people and the U.S. agriculture industry, the Trump administration has focused on other priorities during its first five months in office.

Baker said it’s unlikely that immigration reform is around the corner because other issues, such as health care and tax reform, are consuming all the oxygen in Washington.

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  • Gary

    I am an immigrant and naturalized US Citizen. Mr. Amason is an foreign national (Canadian) who knows nothing about immigration. He insults immigrants by his ignorance on the subject. Immigrants are “legal aliens”, not immigration law violators.

    We waited in refugee camps for years to enter the US legally, obeyed US Laws, and learned English. If Mr. Amonson wants to insult people he should start with his own ignorance on the subject. …

    • Harold

      You are a person of interest to me and I would value your opinion. I have no intentions of evaluating your immigration or worthiness but in curiosity only to gain a sense of your feelings and journey. I am Canadian and like the Americans we all were made legal immigrants at some point in time.

      You were recognized by deed as a person of good standing and you entered into the USA legally. You remained in good standing for which you later became a US citizen of your own free will. Obeying the law and learning English expresses to me that you love the American people and their values and have accepted them as your own. Is this true or am I mistaken?

      Grief and turmoil sometimes compels us into a new culture and a new lifestyle and new beliefs that we unknowingly would have much rather had. Going backwards to origin and based upon the culture and location differences, it is reasonable to me that the USA may not have been your first choice had your homeland not been in turmoil. ( i don’t know where you are from) Did you suffer from a relocation heartache more so felt in the US than had you moved to a peaceful local Country or State next door being more familiar to you? At that time, (not today) what would have been your preferred choice at the time not knowing what you now know of the USA?

      Based upon your legal entry to the USA, how do you feel about others who did not do as you did and they walked past you and entered the USA (your Country now) illegally and undocumented and ahead of others legally standing in line as you had suffered and did?

      I have asked these questions of many only because for a long time I am frustrated with media and government BS and propaganda and I consider it refreshing to hear the opinions from one who actually lived something real and is unedited. Further, I can understand your outrage if you came from a Country where the freedom of speech was denied, and now a US citizen, the fools in Canada don’t have a clue of what power they have given up and lost. Am I on the mark?

  • Gary

    I am an immigrant who pointed out the fallacies of this article. You chose not to print my comment. Why are you afraid of the truth. How will people believe any of your articles.

    • Gary,

      I did not “choose not to print your comment.”

      I moderate all the comments posted to our site before posting them. I look for possible libel issues and foul language, some of which your post contained – you’ll note those references have been edited out.

      Mostly, I was watching the Roughrider game last night and have just recently sat down at my desk this morning.

      There is no conspiracy to silence your opinion.

      Paul – WP web editor

      • Harold

        Perhaps you can educate me. If no one has conspired to silence an opinion then how is it that Gary’s opinion was edited; vanishing ink?
        Men have conspired to water down the power of the people by creating the laws that justify censorship, and now in Canada, Jail for miss-gender pronoun abuse.(Human Rights Act amendment) For what is in fact censorship – it is now legally called moderation, thus allowing only you to say that there is no conspiracy at the WP.
        Case and point: How is it that the WP became libel for someone else’s opinion? How is it that the WP became libel for a profane language that the WP editor did not utter? Did the public nominate the WP to be the public’s opinion keeper?
        There has been a conspiracy. No person can take responsibility for any other persons opinion and the individual is libel for anything that they do and utter; not the world. To take responsibility for another’s opinions is in fact censorship. The empowerment of the public is their ability to freely communicate on any topic and in any language as they so choose and regardless if they offend. Libel was determined in a Court of Law and not in the Court of the public or Court of the media where fair representation is not granted. This is the second freedom in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
        To say that this does not apply anymore one would be correct. The government has conspired against the public and have removed this freedom by silently adding its conflicting amendments. The WP is not to blame; however the WP is a legalized roadblock.
        I have taken this opportunity to express that I don’t read what you say: I read behind what you are saying. Does this opinion offend you in the proper way? I hope so. Offended people seek corrections and liars are exposed and this is the meaning behind the freedom of free speech. Liars today have been awarded secrecy. I think that I can safely say that Gary is not proud that you are his and our keeper.

      • Gary

        Thank you for taking the time to reply. Are you talking about my comment ? Where is the foul language or libelous words. I use words contained in dictionaries and assume we practice free speech. It seams you find my ideas challenging. I challenge you to come up with anything untrue, profane, or libelous in my comment.

        • Gary,

          The laws of free speech do not apply here. I endeavour to maintain a certain level of decorum, which I FELT parts of your comment didn’t meet. But this forum belongs to The Western Producer, and they (or me on their behalf) are free to allow whatever they wish to be posted here, or not.

          Obviously, my journalistic ethics compel me to “accept” as much as possible, but I do have a limit, and parts of your post crossed that line, in my humble opinion.

          What was edited from your comments did NOT, in any way – again, my humble opinion, alter the gist of your comment whatsoever.

          If you don’t wish to play by our fairly relaxed, but nonetheless to be respected, rules you’re free to not comment here.

          Paul – WP web editor

        • Harold

          Gary, at one time in Canada you could have taken the WP to Court for a remedy under section 2) and section 24) 1 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for obstructing the law. The WP’s invitation to Join the discussion would have been a binding contract whereby in keeping the Law they could not have edited your speech in any way, shape, or form. At the same time, those whose public lie’s caused provable harm were held accountable by the Courts.
          The government has since added legalized regulations (amendments) to the Charter removing those freedoms. As freedom means unlimited possibilities, any limitation is freedoms removal. As the WP has clearly indicated, the media now control all of the talking points and the speech. Now the humble opinion of an editor is greater than the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In Canada; we do not have the freedom of speech and as the WP has correctly stated: your freedom is to say nothing at all; (silenced) this is Canada.

          The freedom of speech is the only true power that each Citizen had (public) and it is also why there has been a consistent war against all avenues of that power. The change will occur when
          the public decides to take their own power from out of the hands of government legislations (repeal) whereby leaving only the original document intact; the freedom of speech will be restored. The WP has clearly stated: the supreme law (charter) does not apply here, only the trade-off regulations (amendments) do.

  • DonHonda

    There is much conflation between Legal Immigrants and Illegal Aliens/Immigrants in this article.

    The U.S. currently has eleven non immigrant guest worker visa programs.

    There is no cap on the number of workers allowed into the U.S. under the H-2A temporary agricultural guest worker visa program.

    “The provision could more than triple the number of H-2B visas for foreign workers seeking jobs at hotels, theme parks, ski resorts, golf courses, landscaping businesses, restaurants and bars. The move is intended to boost the supply of non-agricultural seasonal workers.”


    Alabama had to bite the bullet and hire LEGAL Immigrants for its AG Industry:

    Africans Relocate to Alabama to Fill Jobs After Immigration Law

    “East Coast began calling Atlanta refugee agencies several months ago looking for legal immigrants to come to Alabama for a year, said Mbanfu, refugee employment director for Lutheran Services in Atlanta. He said the company would have taken as many refugees as he could refer. The agency connected East Coast with refugees who had been in the country three to five years, he said.”

    Immigration raids yield jobs for legal workers

    ‘When federal agents descended on six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co. in December 2006, they rounded up nearly 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants that made up about 10% of the labor force at the plants.

    But the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents did not cripple the company or the plants. In fact, they were back up and running at full staff within months by replacing those removed with a significant number of native-born Americans, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

    “Whenever there’s an immigration raid, you find white, black and legal immigrant labor lining up to do those jobs that Americans will supposedly not do,” said Swain, who teaches law and political science.”

    Amid foreign worker shortage, Bar Harbor businesses turn to local labor

  • DonHonda

    The author needs to update his information:


    “The former ambassador stated,” If you were to deport the 30 million undocumented immigrants in the United States that’s going to cost you about 130 billion dollars.”

  • Tracey McCulley

    As long as there are able bodied young people on welfare, there should not be a lack of Americans (same for Canada) willing to work at anything. Maybe its time they be told there is a job for them. You turn down a job, you then you don’t get welfare. It’s supposed to be a handup, not a hand out lifestyle which it has become for many.

    • Harold

      Welfare is our trade-off for allowing a runaway economy by pandering our leadership (government) to do so. Everything the government offers and then is legislated into law has to be paid for by tax dollars including agency dollars, license dollars, enforcement dollars, and Court dollars and so forth. Everything that the public does not want to handle (self govern) for themselves and it’s given over to the State to handle has to be paid for in kind by tax dollars. The tax payer only has so much money and therefore wages rise. When wages rise then product costs rise and the ball keeps rolling; wants, legislation, taxation, wages. When the product costs exceed the price barrier that the consumers are willing to pay, the quality of the product is reduced along with wages to suit or the product and workers are eliminated all together. (Industry fails) The lowest wages are due to an existing price barrier caused by the public handing over their own responsibility to the government. Those who cannot keep up by wage with the public’s demands are given over to the creation of a welfare system funded by tax dollars taken from those who the government has met in their wants. (they pay double tax and more) in this trade-off the jobs are given to seasonal immigrants who are not loaded up with all of the Canadian living costs. Added to this are the corporate meddling in between the public and governmental affairs whereby self-governance through legislation is underhandedly removed from the public creating more taxation and more regulatory related costs and higher paying job losses.
      There is more to the welfare system than to say simply that they need to get a job. Being on the welfare system offers no hope and low paying jobs offer the same lack of hope or less; it is our trade off for the wellbeing of the middle class all the way up to the elite.
      One should be mindful every time they think that there ought to be a law or legislation, and all government offers should be heavily scrutinized by the public, but they are not. Every legislation, code, and act, removes the Jury of Peers (public) from the Courtroom, but that is a much larger topic.


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