To the editor:
As a youngster, we were taught that "many hands make light work." This sentiment resonates throughout agriculture because "many hands" are not readily available to us for milking cows, harvesting crops, planting tree seedlings, and collecting poultry. This lack of availability could ultimately impact food reaching the grocery store shelf and your dinner table.
The agriculture community is two percent of the population embracing the challenge of feeding nine billion people by 2050. For us, immigration is not a citizenship issue nor is it a border state issue. It is a real-life, complex issue impacting the food supply chain. Immigration is an issue needing resolution at the Congressional level; however, it is important that you know how immigration impacts Pennsylvania agriculture.
With agriculture as the number one industry in Pennsylvania, generating $6.7 billion in cash receipts and $67 billion in total economic impact, the Commonwealth's agriculture producers and related businesses require a reliable, trained and legal workforce in order to produce a safe and secure food supply.
Our immigration system is a broken relic of the past. We need a workable solution to the barriers that make it difficult for Pennsylvania's farmers to secure a reliable, dependable and consistent workforce. The agricultural industry needs real, meaningful immigration reform that will encapsulate the many shortcomings of our current policy; mainly addressing the antiquated visa system, the temporary worker program, and of course, enforcement of the law. All too often, the current system tragically turns away the very kind of workers who could have an immediate impact on Pennsylvania's agricultural industry, which struggles to find a workforce needed to harvest our food supply.
For more than 100 years, PennAg Industries Association has been the leading advocate for the hard-working men and women of Pennsylvania's agricultural industry. And while the industry has changed greatly over the past 100 years, our mission has remained fairly unchanged, and it is for that reason we respectfully urge Pennsylvania's congressional delegation to take the time necessary to come up with a comprehensive, enforceable immigration solution that will work for our country and our Commonwealth's farms.
Christian R. Herr
Executive Vice President
PennAg Industries Association