The New York’s Farm Bureau reports that fruit and vegetable growers and dairy farmers have been suffering from a shortage of agricultural labor. “Vineyards and orchards had crops left on the vine or fruit left on the tree because of a shortage of workers. That adds up to millions of dollars that are lost in local revenue to the rural economies.”
Dairy farmers have warned that a lack of workers has hampered their ability to meet rising demand from the growing Greek-style yogurt industry in Western New York.
Under the proposed immigration law changes, many illegal alien workers would be able to get an agriculture card, also known as a “blue card,” which would make them eligible to work in agriculture as legal permanent residents if they have paid all taxes, not been convicted of any serious crime and paid a $400 fine. The provision is important to Western New York farmers because they would be able to continue to employ the workers they’ve already trained, and would help workers get a slightly expedited and less costly path to citizenship. The benefit will trickle down to agriculture based industries such as brewers, wineries and distillers. Another provision would set up a three-year guest-worker program with the option to renew for another three years.