Texas Farm, Business Leaders Urge Swift Action to Fix Farm Labor Shortage

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Texas Border Business

EDINBURG, TX – On Thursday, September 22, at 10am CST, the American Business Immigration Coalition Action (ABIC Action), Texas International Produce Association, Little Bear Produce, City of McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos and City of Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza Jr. participated in a press event and roundtable entitled “Lower Food Prices, Keep Shelves Stocked: Common Sense Solutions to Texas’ Farm Labor Shortage.” The event is the latest in a multistate series of events with agricultural stakeholders to call attention to the urgency of fixing the nation’s farm labor shortage by passing new Senate agriculture workforce solutions.

WHAT:   PRESS CONFERENCE: “Lower Food Prices, Keep Shelves Stocked: Common Sense Solutions to Texas’ Farm Labor Shortage.”

WHO (in formation):

  • Dante Galeazzi, President & CEO, Texas International Produce Association
  • Bret Erickson, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs, Little Bear Produce
  • Gerry Garcia, Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs, McAllen Chamber of Commerce
  • Mayor Javier Villalobos, City of McAllen
  • Mayor Ramiro Garza, City of Edinburg
  • Juan Carlos Cerda, Texas State Director and Deputy Campaign Director, ABIC – Action

WHEN:      Thursday Sept. 22, 10 a.m. CST

WHERE:    Little Bear Produce (7310 N Expressway 281, Edinburg, TX 78542)

For more background on the Texas farm labor shortage, read this recent piece by Dante Galeazzi, President & CEO of the Texas International Produce Association. Among its highlights:

  • In the past, South Texas had a strong labor pool of both Americans who lived in the area and Mexican citizens who crossed the border daily with a visa. But that labor force has plummeted in recent years. Between 2002 and 2014, the number of full-time field and crop workers in the U.S. dropped by more than 20% — at least 146,000 people — according to New American Economy (NAE). And the Southern Plains region of Texas and Oklahoma lost approximately 6,000 full-time workers during that time.
  • When farmers post hiring notices for low-skilled labor in areas like planting, cultivating, or harvesting, U.S. workers take those jobs only 6 percent of the time, according to the Department of Labor.
  • Across the U.S., if labor shortages were not an issue, the production of these crops would be worth an additional $3.1 billion per year, according to NAE, plus $2.8 billion in spending on related services. It would also create more than 41,000 additional non-farm jobs for Americans each year.

The National Crisis:
On the national level, Texas A&M International University recently released data from a new economic study on the link between stabilizing the agricultural workforce and decreasing inflation and consumer prices, showing that ensuring farmers have a stable, secure, reliable, and legal workforce is crucial to keeping America’s grocery shelves stocked, combating inflation, and lowering food prices (including milk, eggs, meat, and produce) for all domestic consumers.

Addressing workforce shortages facing farm employers and stabilizing the H-2A visa application process is also crucial for enhancing our national food security by protecting domestic agriculture production. According to the USDA, next year, for the first time in U.S. history, we as a country will be importing more agricultural goods than we export.

Congressional Action
In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with bipartisan support. That was a good start, and now in the Senate, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Mike Bennet (D-CO) have taken the lead on negotiating improvements on the House’s solutions and moving the process forward. Passing new Senate legislation is critical to solving labor shortages facing the Texas agriculture sector and sustaining the state’s economy as a whole.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, grocery bills are rising at the fastest pace in more than 40 years, and this year’s July 4th cookouts cost 17% more than last year and 27% more than before the pandemic. Prices for ground beef are up 36% from last summer, chicken breasts up 33%, pork and beans up 33%, pork chops up 31%, lemonade up 22%, and potato salad up 19% –  some families were likely forced to skip a cookout altogether.

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