American Agriculture

Farmers need a practical visa program for the seasonal – but often illegal – workers that are the backbone of American agriculture.

Agriculture has long been the foundation of America’s prosperity.  From potatoes in Maine to oranges in California, the bounty of our farms keeps the US growing.  The agricultural sector is also an enormous portion of our economy, with about $300 billion in sales during 2007 alone.

As native-born Americans have turned away from farming jobs, America’s agriculture industry has relied on willing immigrants to make up the gap.  According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, 80 percent of America’s crop workers are foreign-born. But increasingly, farm owners and managers are finding their hands tied by an immigration system that simply does not meet their needs.  Instead of helping farmers find the people they need to keep America fed, our antiquated immigration policies impose costly barriers that leave farm owners struggling to secure enough labor. Without adequate farm help, owners are forced to let their crops rot unharvested.

Important facts about the foreign workers who grow food for Americans:

  • § According to the Department of Agriculture, each added agricultural job yields three additional jobs.
  • § Agriculture directly supports jobs in a variety of industries.  For instance, over 40% of the jobs at the Port of Oakland, CA are tied to agricultural shipping.
  • § Despite that 80% of crop workers are foreign-born, only 5% are on H-2A visas, the result of a complex and burdensome visa allocation process for temporary agricultural workers.
  • § 84,000 acres of farm work have already moved to Mexico, meaning that those farms will support the Mexican, rather than American economy.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…