American Farmland Trust is concerned that the deepening farm labor crisis is putting family farms in great jeopardy," says Ralph Grossi, AFT President. "And that's an issue since half of our land in the United States is working farm and ranchland."
"As we come to the close of the traditional fall harvest season, we've seen devastating examples illustrating the severity of this issue," Grossi says. Due to a lack of labor at harvest farmers have been forced to allow crops to rot in the fields, causing significant economic losses.
"At the same time, family farmers face a two-edged sword," adds Grossi. "If they hire undocumented workers, they face severe penalties. If they don't, they'll watch generations of family savings disappear in a matter of one or two seasons. Having access to a reliable, legal workforce is critical to the viability of American agriculture--both to producers and the many workers along the production chain from farm gate to dinner plate."
AFT has called upon members of Congress to support the enactment of S. 359 and H.R. 884, the "Agriculture Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act of 2005" (AgJOBS) before the 109th session of Congress closes.
"American farm and ranch land is an irreplaceable resource. These lands are the core of nation's productive competitive advantage in agriculture, provide healthy food for our world's citizens, renewable fuels, and open space, wildlife habitat and cleaner water," says Grossi.
"Failure to act to stem this issue will lead to economic hardship and dislocation of farmers and could cause unprecedented levels of farmland conversion to sprawling development. Swift action is needed to address our nation's agricultural labor crisis," Grossi concludes.