(NewsNation) — The national labor shortage means that some farmers are looking for alternative ways to find employees.
Labor shortages in the agricultural industry have been a problem for several years. According to AgAmerica Lending, there areA 73% decline in self-employed and family farm workers from 1950 to 2000. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects farm worker employment to only increase 1% from 2019 to 2020, Associated Press reports.
To overcome this, some farmers use government programs to bring in foreign workers.
Tom Witten, principal greenhouse grower for the Witten Farm Market near Columbus, Ohio, told NewsNation’s “Morning in America” that in his short time running a family farm, having a reliable and permanent workforce was essential.
Back when he was in high school, Witten’s father only employed locals, and they employed a lot of high school kids.
“But a lot of those kids have something else going on,” Witten said. “There are a lot of good kids out there, but they don’t have the time, or they don’t want working conditions in the fields anymore.”
Witten is part of the H-2A Interim Agriculture Program, which enables farm employers anticipating a shortage of domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the US for temporary or seasonal work. The workers brought in through the program are not immigrants, but guest workers, so they return to their home countries every year, explains Witten.
“They work here for about four to five months,” he said.
While the program is expensive and can involve a lot of paperwork, Witten says she enjoys being a part of it, and sees it as a way to stem some of the flow from the southern border, as it gives people a way to earn money. in the US legally.
“They want to work hard. It doesn’t bother them, the hot sun,” said Witten. “To be honest, working with these people is one of the highlights of my work, because they are people who want a better life for their children. They are doing it the right way, and we want to be part of that solution.” instead of complaining.”
Witten says jobs have changed over the years.
“The core job of harvesting now, you have to speak Spanish to be a fruit and vegetable farmer,” says Witten.