The National Pork Producers Council renewed its call for government help to prevent a severe labor shortage from becoming a crisis. The decision by the U.S. Department of State to suspend visa processing in Mexico threatens to worsen the labor shortage in the pork industry and across U.S. agriculture. Mexico is a very important source of labor for U.S. hog farmers and packing plants.
"I want to underscore that our farms and plants are not in crisis today," says NPPC president Howard "A.V." Roth, a pork producer from Wauzeka, Wis. "Farmers are the foundation and heart of the food supply system. Hog farmers and others in the pork industry are doing their part to ensure American kitchens are well-stocked. But we are very concerned about the recent State Department announcement regarding consulates in Mexico and the implications for our operations."
The pork industry, a farm sector that operates year-round, uses the H-2A visa program for specialized work, but cannot use the program for most labor needs because of its seasonal limitation. Hog farmers are major users of the TN visa program, which taps labor from Mexico.
In addition to workforce concerns, NPPC said U.S. pork producers need additional federal support, including:
- Clarity from the U.S. Department of Transportation that farms are part of the critical domestic infrastructure needed to produce the food that feeds America and the world. This clear designation ensures the uninterrupted supply of commercial feed and other production inputs to farms, as well as the transport of livestock from farm to market. Hog farmers also have concerns about the potential shortage of standard supplies such as boot covers, coveralls and disinfectants needed to maintain high standards of biosecurity, animal care and food safety.
- Provisions in the pending congressional relief package to provide financial support for childcare for farm and plant workers.
"U.S. hog farmers are committed to maintaining the continuity of the food supply and we stand with the administration in its response to the COVID-19 challenge," Roth says. "The pork supply chain is operating, but now is the time to get ahead of looming challenges and ensure federal and state policies support farmers and the critical role they play in meeting the nutritional needs of the nation."