A new report says President Obama’s executive action on immigration likely won’t have a huge impact on Midwest agriculture.
Stephanie Mercier, who wrote the report for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, says the presidential order does not address the needs of Midwest employers. They often want year-round temporary workers, something current law does not permit.
“What a lot of farmers in the Midwest are looking for is year-round workers,” Mercier said. “And they want to hire not just for one year but for two, three, four years.”
Most Midwest immigrant agricultural workers tend to be in year-round positions such as dairy hands while seasonal work picking fruits and vegetables is more common in other areas.
Mercier also explains that the executive order could offer some relief from the threat of deportation to as many as five million people. But only about 250,000 of those potentially eligible work in agriculture. Still, that relatively small number could have a negative impact on some farms.
“There’s a legitimate concern among farmers that they could lose those workers,” she said, “because if they now have legal status there are jobs in other parts of the economy that pay better.”
That leaves farmers and other ag employers continuing to wait for Congressional action.