Video titled “IMMIGRATION REFORM: Across Arkansas” features interviews with state leaders and farmers who voice real concerns in an attempt to spur immigration reform
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Two weeks after the Partnership for a New American Economy released a study detailing how labor shortages have led to an increased amount of reliance on exported produce, key figures across the state weigh in including: Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, Mayor Billy Ray Jones of Nashville and two farmers from different corners of the state.
“We farmed close to 350 acres last year,” says Rep. Jeff Wardlaw in the video. “And this year we’ll have right at 40 acres due to labor costs and regulations.”
“But the flow of food will never change in the grocery stores,” he added. “That will get filled from outside the country.”
The data released in the study; “No Longer Home Grown: How Labor Shortages are Increasing America’s Reliance on Imported Fresh Produce and Slowing U.S. Economic Growth” from the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, detail their key findings:
- In recent years, the share of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed by American families that was imported has grown by 79.3 percent.
- In America, our production of fresh produce and the demands of consumers are increasingly out-of-sync. While the amount of fresh produce and vegetables consumed by Americans has grown in recent years, production levels have either barely grown or declined.
- Had U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable growers been able to maintain the domestic market share they held from 1998-2000, their communities would have enjoyed a substantial economic boost, resulting in an estimated $4.9 billion in additional farming income and 89,300 more jobs in 2012 alone. U.S. GDP would have been $12.4 billion higher in 2012.
- Labor challenges faced by U.S. farmers and the inadequacies of the H-2A visa program are a key reason why American farmers have been unable to maintain their share of the domestic market. Labor alone can explain as much as $3.3 billion in missed GDP growth in 2012. It also accounts for $1.4 billion in farm income that wasn’t realized that year.
The data for this report was compiled by Stephen Bronars, Ph.D., a Senior Economist at Welch Consulting.
“We have to get affordable labor willing to do the work,” says Farmer Josh Hardin, “We can’t afford to stay in business without passing on those costs to the customers.”
Hardin added, “It hurts the entire economy when we at the bottom can’t get the labor to produce the food.” he said, “The demand is going to shift.”
“Officials are elected to deal with problems and this is a problem,” says Nashville Mayor Billy Ray Jones. “We deal with things whether they’re popular or not and this is one we have to deal with.”
Susan Anglin, a dairy farmer in Springdale says without immigration reform the agricultural industry of Arkansas will be greatly impacted, “It’s an impact in our rural communities not just in Arkansas but across the country,” she said. “If we don’t have the labor force to keep that strong we’re going to be in even more serious trouble.
The information detailed in this new study draws a direct line from the money our state and nation could be making, to the need for immigration reform.
For more information on the report go to: www.renewoureconomy.org
To view our video go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4TgRQaTzCQ