Farm Bureau Study Sows False Claims

Immigration reform that focuses solely on enforcement would cut agriculture production and cause a sharp rise in food prices, according to a study released Monday – Ron Nixon, The New York Times 2/12/14

Fact Check: This article refers to a study produced by the American Farm Bureau, the nation’s largest farm lobby organization. It and other agricultural interests claim that we have a terrible shortage of farm workers and that enforcing our immigration laws will stem the availability of illegal aliens and make that alleged “shortage” much worse. The consequence for consumers, supposedly, will be significantly higher food prices.

Much evidence suggests, however, that the claims of worker shortages are exaggerated. See the following link: Caution: Watch for Farmers’ Fibs on “Labor Shortages”

The only alternative to illegal aliens that the farm lobbies usually propose is allowing foreign workers to come to the U.S. legally as guest workers. In fact, such an arrangement in fact already exists, the H-2A program. But growers make relatively little use of it, usually claiming that it requires too much paperwork and hassle.

Be that as it may, it’s interesting that the growers and their lobbies devote little effort to trying to make the program more user-friendly. This raises the suspicion that they also object to the requirement of the program that they pay decent wages to workers. Many growers may prefer illegal aliens precisely because they can pay them low wages.

Sometimes they try to justify these low wages with the claim that paying more would cause food prices to rise substantially. The truth, however, is that they would not rise a great deal because farm wages account for only a small fraction of food prices. See the following link: Farm Labor Shortages: How Real? What Response

Higher wages could be helpful for two reasons: 1) Attracting more American workers to agriculture 2) Providing incentive to mechanize planting and harvest. Another problem with using illegal aliens as a low wage work force is that the labor is not cheap for everyone. Specifically, taxpayers are forced to provide public benefits for low-paid illegal aliens including education, health care, and welfare for their American-born children.

The Farm Bureau study sows false conclusions. The intention, it seems, is to reap a crop of private gain at the expense of the public good.


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