By:Â Justin Chan
Weather changes only account for part of the problem that affects agricultural output. According to Bloomberg, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned last week that immigration reforms are necessary in order to maintain a sufficient workforce and prevent crops from rotting.
"The sad reality is that crops will be raised in this country this year that may not be harvested because there simply is not the workforce," he said. ""All of America, but especially farm country, needs comprehensive immigration reform, and we need it now."
Immigration has been a testy issue in the country in recent years. Conservatives have argued that illegal immigrants have taken away jobs that could have gone to Americans, while liberals have defended immigrants of all statuses and have praised their contributions to the economy. Several states have already pushed for measures that would limit the number of illegal immigrants in the country. Alabama's immigration legislation, for instance, has targeted farm workers.
Some have argued that immigration labor is necessary in crop production. A study conducted by Barry Estabrook, for example, revealed that the agricultural output from skilled migrant workers far exceeds that from unemployed felons who are assigned the same job. In an era when the global economy has been unpredictable, immigration to the United States has continued to spike at unprecedented levels while the country's agricultural production remains erratic due to the quality of unskilled labor.
Vilsack said that Congress needs the "political courage" to reform current immigration policies, since many farmers have been left without enough workers to harvest crops.
"There's a risk of rotting crops, and with that risk, there's no excuse for the efforts of some seeking to demonize immigrant labor or prevent meaningful reform of a system that everyone in the Congress and in the country admits is not functioning," he said.
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