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With limited crop yield, farmers call for immigration reform

Farmers rely on immigrants, many of whom work on vegetable farms.

Due to an unusually long string of dry weather throughout much of the country, many vegetable farmers who are used to getting a high yield from their crops around this time of year have been disappointed to find that their harvests have been limited. This has resulted in higher prices at grocery stores due to the limited supply but steady demand.

And while the majority of farmers point to the drought as the main reason for their lost revenue, an increasing number of them say that immigration laws have made matters worse.

Help hard to find for many vegetable growers
Several family-operated farms recently spoke with Time Magazine, detailing how immigrant workers – many of whom send money to their loved ones overseas – play a huge role in their business. Due to overly restrictive immigration policies, however, they've been forced to perform various labors without much-needed assistance.

"The enforcement of immigration policy has devastated the skilled-labor source that we've depended on for 20 or 30 years," Ralph Broetje, a vegetable farmer who runs a business out of Washington State, said recently at the National Immigration Forum, according to the news magazine. "It's getting worse each year and it's going to end up putting some growers out of business if Congress doesn't step up and do immigration reform."

Meanwhile, vegetable growers in the Southwest have encountered similar frustrations. Nan Walden, vice president of the world's largest pecan grower in Farmers Investment Co., indicated that Arizona's immigration laws have made getting his company staffed with quality help difficult.

"[SB 1070] has led to people leaving our state, going to other states without these ambiguous clouds and legal sanctions hanging over employers' and employees' heads," said Walden.

States consider adopting guest-worker programs
As legislators in Washington, D.C., continue to debate how best to deal with the nation's immigration laws, Time says that many states – such as Utah, California, Oklahoma and Vermont – are considering enacting guest-worker programs that will allow immigrants who don't have all their paperwork to work in the state. However, these programs ultimately require federal approval before they can be put into effect.

Walden told the magazine that there's never been a more important time for federal leadership regarding immigration reform than there is today.

"The United States farmer is still the most efficient in the world, and if we want to be in charge of our food security and our economy and add favorably to our balance of payments, we need to support a labor force for agriculture," said Walden.

According to statistics from the American Farm Bureau Federation, nearly 70 percent of the 1.2 million people who work in agriculture are immigrants, many of whom are undocumented, Time Magazine reports.

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