Carolina Farmers Claim that Immigrants are not taking Farm Jobs from U.S. Citizens
According to the North Carolina Farm Bureau, about 80,000 farm workers, primarily Latino migrants and immigrants as well as U.S. natives, toil on farms in North Carolina, where agriculture still plays a major role. According to the bureau, roughly half are undocumented immigrants, although many have been living in North Carolina for decades. About 25 percent come to work in the U.S. temporarily through the federal H-2A visa program. Only one-fourth of the state’s farm workers, a mix of immigrants and U.S. nationals, live in North Carolina permanently. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) states,
Foreign labor is what provides jobs for U.S. citizens and North Carolina residents working in the agricultural industry. It is hard to overestimate what agriculture means to our state
They are an invisible workforce that props up North Carolina’s $84 billion agriculture industry. Despite what President Trump has said regarding illegal immigrants, some North Carolina farmers say they can’t find enough locals to work in their fields, where the hours are long and the sun is unrelenting, so they must rely on foreign labor. In February, Larry Wooten, president of the N.C. Farm Bureau, and a group of farmers met with Senator Tillis, Senator Richard Burr, Rep. George Holding, Rep. David Rouzer, Rep. Ted Budd and Rep. Mark Meadows, all Republicans, to discuss immigration reform, simplifying the H-2A program and determining an avenue to legal status for undocumented farm workers. In 2011, North Carolina had about 489,000 unemployed residents and roughly 6,500 available jobs in agriculture through the North Carolina Growers Association, the biggest employer of H-2A workers in the United States. Only 268 U.S. natives applied and 163 showed up for the first day of work. More than half quit by the end of the first month, and only seven people completed the growing season.
These same issues with agriculture and a lack of workers are also happening in California. It is great that other states are also experiencing similar issues so that hopefully a solution can be created to help out the illegal immigrants that work the agricultural jobs that many citizens do not want to do. The U.S. Department of Labor sets a minimum wage for H-2A workers. In North Carolina, that wage is $11.27 an hour, which is well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Despite this above average wage rate in North Carolina, many citizens do not want to work in agriculture, so programs such as the H-2A worker program are vital to maintaining the agriculture production in the United States.