Workforce Challenges in the Agricultural Industry

When it comes to our food supply, one might not realize the current workforce challenges in the agricultural industry. Farming is one industry not immune to massive changes. However, the escalating labor crisis and the topic of immigration continues to be top of the list plaguing farmers today.

3 Million Workers in the Industry of Agriculture

Workforce challenges in the agricultural industryIt’s important to note that there are an estimated 3 million foreign workers in the U.S. agricultural labor force. It would therefore be logical to assume this large number means there are 3 million foreign workers taking the place of 3 million American jobs. Not so,” immigrants and U.S. born workers who work unusual hours are often not competing for the same jobs”, according to United Fresh. For example, U.S. born individuals working unusual hours will choose jobs that are dependent on communication such as cashiers or wait staff.  However, immigrants on such shifts will have to choose jobs such as janitors, entry-level agriculture workers or construction laborers due to the communication gap. 

The Escalating Labor Crisis

Workforce challenges in the agricultural industry

Furthermore, we need to consider the escalating labor crisis in direct correlation to the impact of the aging workforce.  Due to the existing workforce being older, the need to hire younger and more capable workers in the agriculture industry is even more important. Although it seems like deportation is an escalating issue, the total number of Mexican immigrants living in the United States illegally has declined by 2 million since 2007. A significant portion of that loss coming from a decrease in agricultural workers. For those who have been granted asylum and are working legally in the U.S. as of 2016, the average age of a farm worker is now over 40 years old.  In addition, innovation is becoming a bigger player in farming, but we still have a ways to go before technology can be considered a solution in when it comes to the agricultural industry and workforce challenges.

So, why should we care about workforce challenges in the industry?

With an aging work force and a declining number of immigrants willing to do the work in our food industry we, as consumers, will pay the price. When farmers are forced to move their operations outside of the U.S. to places like Mexico – America loses. At first one might think we will gain if our crime rate decreases, but according to a study done by The Cato Institute and The University of Wisconsin, results show that “undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than American-born citizens”. Because it impacts all of us is  a big reason why we should care a great deal about workforce challenges in the agricultural industry.

Agriculture Contributes 100 Billion to the U.S. Economy

Workforce challenges in the agricultural industryWhen we take into consideration that the farming industry contributes more than $100 billion to the US economy, it’s imperative to look at the segments of this industry that we can do something about, such as climate change and trade wars. But by looking at the challenges of the agricultural workforce we can begin to understand why this industry is always in transition. It when we stand back and look at the bigger picture we can easily see why we must care about every aspect of our farmers and the challenges in the industry.

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