It is not about the salary. It is not about an employee benefits bundle. The latest technology, good wages with benefits packages and a family-like work environment are available for people that work on U.S. pig farms. Still, U.S. pork producers face a significant labor shortage on our farms and throughout the pork supply chain.
The competition for hardworking, loyal workers is fierce. The amount of available people living near pig farms or harvest facilities is declining. According to a study by economists from Iowa State University, native-born workers and permanent residents cannot offset the need for foreign-born labor despite solid wages and benefits. Finding people to work is a real problem for all business owners. For America's pig farmers, the labor struggle is much greater. The need is too big. The farms must rely on foreign-born workers willing to roll up their sleeves and passionately care for pigs.
Pigs need caretakers every day of the year. U.S. pig farms welcome diverse pig caretakers in the barns. Yet, the current visa program falls short, leaving U.S. hog farmers without available workforce and the chance to enrich the farm's workforce and broaden perspectives. People learning from each other is a value that goes unmeasured. For many foreign-born workers, joining the U.S. pork industry has often created an opportunity to come to the country and become an integral part of a community.
The industry-wide labor shortage is reaching a critical level, and the impact will be felt by all. It needs to be address now.
Current agriculture visa programs are designed for seasonal agriculture production cycles. Pork production and other animal agriculture are year-round enterprises. Animals need care daily, 365 days of the year. It is anything but seasonal. America's pig farmers help feed the world. Without pig caretakers, affordable, high-quality protein will be sparse and further widen the gap in equal access to nutritious food.
The rural economy and prosperity of livestock farmers will also suffer without a solution. This challenge undermines a vital economic sector that is essential to prosperity in rural America. U.S. pig farmers alone support more than 550,000 jobs, from the farm to meat processors to transport and Main Street businesses. In Ohio alone, our more than 3,400 pork producers generate 11,500 jobs and an estimated $439 million of personal income.
Agriculture labor reform is critical and needs to be quickly addressed. As debate on addressing the agriculture labor shortage moves through Congress, hog farmers and the National Pork Producers Council look forward to working with lawmakers on meaningful labor reform that both opens the H-2A visa program to year-round labor without a cap and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country.
U.S. pork producers are ready to talk and put it all on the table. They are prepared to partake in solution-driven conversations, leading to meaningful labor reform. We're confident Congress will find a solution that works for all parties.
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Source: Chery Day, Ohio Pork Council, who are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.