Ohio growers and groups representing them say that they need access to foreign labor not just to get their products to market or to ease inflation. They say it’s a matter of national security.
For the first time, next year, U.S. agricultural imports are expected to exceed the nation’s exports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of course, that would make the country a net importer of food. “A nation that cannot feed itself is not secure,” James O’Neill, spokesman for the American Business Immigration Coalition, a bipartisan group that works for what it calls “sensible immigration reform.”
He was speaking on Wednesday at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan. The event is part of a push to get the U.S. Senate to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021, which has already been passed by the House.
Among other provisions, the bill would create “certified agricultural worker” status for certain foreign farm employees, allowing them to stay in the United States for 5.5 years and could be extended. After meeting certain requirements those workers would be able to apply for permanent resident status.
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