https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/v...umn/2053772002/Thanksgiving without the sides: Lack of farm labor could make fruits, vegetables unaffordable
It takes a lot of workers to pick those acres, but the domestic labor simply isn’t available. This means that unless our elected officials make drastic changes to immigration policy — and allow us to hire more foreign-born workers — many Americans will soon have to give up their strawberries and other crops that must be laboriously picked by hand.
To operate at full capacity, I rely on temporary foreign-born workers hired through the H-2A visa program. But H-2A is a complete mess.
First, it’s incredibly expensive. On average, growers pay $2,500 per worker to cover transportation, housing and visa fees. This is on top of the mandated $11.12 minimum pay per hour in Florida, which is more than the state’s required minimum wage of $8.25. In California, the mandated minimum hourly rate is even higher at $12.57 per hour, more than the $11 minimum wage there.
Some of my workers, on piece-rate, were earning upwards of $25 per hour some weeks last season.
Second, there is so much red tape that my workers often arrive late, like this year, or have to leave before the harvest is complete.
In recent years, the number of new immigrants arriving here to work in agriculture has fallen by 75 percent. In Florida, we lost more than 8,500 field and crop workers between 2002 and 2014. The remaining workers are aging, which means the shortage will only increase over the next five to 10 years. Soon, we’ll be competing with countries like Mexico to import labor.