By Clint Thompson
The agricultural labor issue should not be as complicated as legislators are making it out to be. That’s the belief shared by Jimmy Parnell, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation.
Specialty crop producers need a seasonal labor force. Citizens of other countries want to work. It’s a match made in agricultural heaven.
“There’s a large group of people out there that want to come here and work and make money. We have a need for that. In my mind this is the simplest thing you ever dealt with,” said Parnell during the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference in Gulf Shores, Alabama, earlier this month. “You’ve got a need, and you’ve got a group that wants to do it. We need to sit down at a table and get over all of our differences. Everybody jockeying for position is what has complicated this thing. Give those individuals a work visa to come here and work. Have them pay our taxes. Expect certain things out of them. I think both sides would win with that.”
Unfortunately, the agricultural labor issue gets wrapped up in the larger immigration debate. It does not appear to be an issue that will be solved any time soon. That’s a scary proposition if growers can’t secure a labor force or can’t afford to pay for one.
“We desperately need as a country to figure out the labor situation. There’s a group of people in this country that believe if we do things the right way, then the American citizens will come back to work and do labor on farms. That’s not going to happen. If they wanted to, I don’t think they could physically do it. We’ve spent so much time sitting on the couch with air conditioning, I just don’t believe we’re capable of doing that,” Parnell said. “We have to fix labor if the people in America want to eat, and they love to eat.”
The Affordable and Secure Food Act of 2022 (ASFA) failed to gain momentum late last December after it was introduced by the Senate.