During a roundtable with farmers and officials, President Donald Trump vowed that his immigration crackdown won’t affect the U.S. farm industry which heavily relies on immigrants.
Trump Reassures U.S. Farmers
Trump also said that his policies will not create additional problems for U.S. famers, and he pledged to enable farmers to bring in more immigrants for temporary agricultural jobs.
He assured us we would have plenty of access to workers,
said the head of American Farm Bureau Federation, Zippy Duvall.
The AFBF is one of the 14 attendees to last month’s meeting between the president, the Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and the U.S. farm industry representatives.
During the roundtable, farmers said that they were concerned about the new changes in labor and immigration policies. Some farmers reportedly told the president that they can hardly find Americans for farm jobs because they are too difficult.
Those farmers were worried that stricter immigration policies and an ill-conceived H-2A visa program were barring immigrants from applying for the jobs. The White House didn’t release the specifics of the meeting but described the talks as “very productive”.
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, about half of agricultural workers entered the country illegally, while two-thirds are born in other countries.
A dairy farmer recalled at the meeting how ICE agents arrested six chicken catchers working for a company in Pennsylvania. The firm reportedly tried to replace them with local workers but after three hours all but one local workers quit. In response, Trump said he wanted to lend a hand to the company. He ordered Perdue to look into the matter and find solutions.
The H-2A Visa Program a Nuisance to Farmers
Other farmers complained about the H-2A visa program which enables them to bring in guest workers. The president of a wholesale nursery in Ohio, Tom Demaline, informed Trump on his daily struggles with the program. Demalin said that the program works in theory but it generates a lot of trouble in practice. The farmer complained about the “bureaucracy and red tape” which literally can kill his crops if workers show up a week or two late.
The program has become more popular in recent years, but it generates just 10 percent of the 1.3 million agricultural workers. Last year, the U.S. government allowed 134,000 temporary workers in through the H-2A visa program.
Under the program, companies must provide food, transportation, and housing to workers the moment they arrive. The immigrants’ minimum wages are set by the government. Some farmers, however, said that not the H-2A program was the problem. They noted they would bring even more workers in, if they had more places to accommodate them.
Just days after he was sworn in, Trump signed a couple of executive orders that enhanced border security and sped up a crackdown on illegal immigration. When farmers told Trump that they are very worried about those actions, the president reassured them that deportations and arrests would only happen to criminals, not crop workers.
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