The Agriculture Workforce Coalition, a coalition including many major U.S. dairy and agricultural groups, joined with the Partnership for a New American Economy to launch a month-long campaign for immigration reform.

The campaign, #ifarmimmigration, will support renewed efforts to enact immigration reform this year. It will stress the agriculture sector’s critical need for immigration reform with activities online and on the ground in Washington D.C. and in congressional districts.

The effort kicks off with a Capitol Hill briefing on Wednesday, Feb. 5, where Congressional staff will hear from farmers and ranchers about the need for immigration reform.

Throughout the month, the campaign will release research on labor shortages, while farmers and ranchers will be on the ground telling their stories through farm tours, social and traditional media, videos, and community events for members of Congress in their districts.

A 2012 Texas A&M University study found that farms using immigrant labor supply more than three-fifths of the milk in the country. Without immigrant labor, the number of dairy farms would drop by 4,532, reducing milk production by 29.5 billion lbs. and raising retail milk prices by an estimated 61%.

Dairy organization members of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition include the National Milk Producers Federation, Idaho Dairymen’s Association, National All-Jersey, South East Dairy Farmers Association, Southeast Milk, Inc., United Dairymen of Arizona, Utah Dairy Producers and Western United Dairymen.

“Immigration reform is critical for the agricultural industry,” said American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman. “This campaign will highlight how many farmers rely on an immigrant labor force and without reform, growers will begin to plant less labor intensive crops or go off shore. Simply put, either we import our labor or we import our food.”

Major talking points of the campaign will include:

• The worker shortage is costing farmers millions of dollars each year: Agricultural employers reported more than $300 million in losses in 2010 because of worker shortages.

• Farmers need a stable, legal workforce in order to continue producing an abundant, safe, and affordable food supply. Immigrant workers make up approximately 80 percent of hired labor on American farms.

• Current immigration laws are putting American jobs at risk: Two million people are hired each year to work on American farms, and each of these workers supports two to three other employees downstream in jobs like sales, marketing, and transportation. Without immigration reform, many of these valuable jobs will leave the country and never return.

• Eliminating immigrant labor would increase food prices for American consumers,

For more information, visit iamimmigration.org.

To learn more about AWC, visit www.agworkforcecoalition.org

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