Florida growers know that critical to their survival in the farm industry are the workers who spend their days in the fields, nurseries, forests and groves, planting, nurturing and bringing in the products so they can go to market. These workers are often the missing piece in the current farming market — and not just in Florida.
All around the country, farmers are struggling to get their products planted and harvested on time, and when they lack the much needed labor force, they often literally see the country’s food and their profits rotting in the fields.
In our state especially, we are known for products that require hands-on labor. Oranges and other citrus fruits must be picked by hand. Dairy and livestock producers always need people who can maintain the daily operations. Ornamental nurseries’ daily efforts of potting, spacing, pruning and loading require hands-on labor.
Millions of trees each year that eventually become the forests of the future are planted by hand. It is estimated that 60 to 80 percent of the workers on our farms are immigrants; it is less certain what percentage of these workers are here illegally but undoubtedly the percentage is concerning. The harsh reality of our $8 billion agriculture industry is that to eliminate immigrant labor would mean losing anywhere from half a billion to a billion dollars in annual revenue.