According to some startling reports, delays in immigration policy reform—a hot-button issue in our current political climate—has prevented thousands of seasonal farm workers from legally entering the country, which means that many farmers, left without employees and help, have suffered irretrievable losses this year.
Carlos Castaneda lost 25 percent of his Napa cabbage crop because his guest farm worker program paperwork was stuck in an endless web of bureaucratic red tape; Fishkill Farms' Joshua Morgenthau's 100-acre fruit harvest was placed in jeopardy because his seasonal workers were stuck in Jamaica, unable to enter the U.S.; and Kevin Eason, a blueberry farmer in Georgia, estimates he's suffered more than $750,000 in losses since this year's H-2A visa paperwork was held up for months in Washington—and months can mean an entire season's loss in the farming industry.
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By all accounts, this has not been a normal year—and farmers are placing the blame square on the shoulders of politicians and their failure to enact immigration reform easing the way for farms to employ guest farm workers on a seasonal basis. Some industry advocates, like Western Growers' President and CEO Tom Nassif, are even pushing for a more permanent solution: allowing some workers to stay in the country, even during the off-season.