Exporting Jobs Instead of Food

House Republicans are brawling over immigration again, and it could scuttle their farm bill. Most of the public debate focuses on the so-called Dreamers. But another big problem receiving less media attention is that the immigration restrictionists are detached from the reality of the American farm economy and a worker shortage that’s driving food production overseas.

The farm labor shortage is growing more serious as the overall U.S. jobless rate falls. The Labor Department says about half of the 1.2 million or so workers employed in agriculture are undocumented, and if they were deported the shortage would become a crisis. According to the Pew Research Center, more Mexicans left the U.S. than came between 2009 and 2014. Many farm workers who arrived decades ago are aging, while others have moved to higher-paying jobs like construction.

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