Farmers across the U.S. are finding it increasingly hard to source labor, especially as the children of long-time farmworkers are pursuing different career paths.
The big picture: There is growing concern among farmers about finding enough workers to maintain their farms.
* Decades ago, migrant farmworkers moved around the U.S. for farming jobs, but increased border control after Sept. 11, 2001, caused many to settle permanently and they are now aging out of the workforce.
* An example highlighted is Paola Mendoza, daughter of a farmworker, who is using her experience on a farm to conduct research in an internship aimed at improving irrigation systems, but doesn’t foresee her future in agriculture.
Concerns from within: The shrinking domestic labor force is impacting farms directly.
* Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican and a third-generation farmer, warns that incomplete tasks on farms could affect yields, produce quality, and could drive farmers away from labor-intensive crops. He adds that food may also become more expensive.
Congressional Response: Congress is addressing the issue through the H-2A visa program and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
* The H-2A visa program allows employers to bring in foreign workers for seasonal work when local workers cannot be found.
* Newhouse and other lawmakers have reintroduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, setting caps on H-2A wage increases and allowing a limited number of year-round visas for non-seasonal labor.
* Despite these attempts, this legislation faces strong resistance, and it remains difficult to get any immigration-related bill through the Republican-controlled House.
Changing attitudes: There is a perceptible generational shift in viewing farming as a profession, contributing to labor shortages.
* Longtime farmworkers are encouraging their children to pursue different career ambitions.
* Jazmin Corona, a daughter of a migrant farmworker, chose to attend college and wants to work in high school education within her community.
* This trend indicates a significant shift from manual labor towards higher education and white-collar jobs.
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