Johnna Miller, American Farm Bureau Federation
July 22, 2013
Fresh, juicy peaches. One of the most delicious things about summer. But South Carolina peach farmer Chalmers Carr explains that without the foreign workers he needs to pick, they’ll never make them to your grocery store. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has the story.
Miller: You may think immigration reform doesn’t have anything to do with you. But if you like fresh fruits and vegetables, think again. South Carolina peach farmer Chalmers Carr says without immigration reform – and the improvements to agriculture labor program that would come with that – a lot of that fresh produce will have a tough time making it to your grocery store.
Carr: Labor is our #1 input expense by far. 40 percent of our cost of production is labor and without labor we could not harvest this crop. You cannot thin, harvest, pack peaches without manually having hands. There’s no machinery that can do this.
Miller: The Senate immigration reform bill would improve the current system, called the H2-A program, so it works better for farmers and the workers. Carr says those improvements are desperately needed.
Carr: We’ve had delays with workers probably about every other year on average getting workers here and when you’re dealing with time-sensitive, perishable crops, that’s the difference in making money and not making money.
Miller: The House of Representatives is still debating the issue. Carr says if they drop the ball, the ramifications for farmers AND consumers will be enormous.
Carr: Your fruit is going to be harvested one way or another by a foreign national. So what you have to make a decision about is if you want it harvested here in this country with our food safety regulations and our FDA governing how we grow our crops versus having that foreign national harvest them in another country where you don’t have the same food safety protocols. That is not rhetoric. That is true.
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