Foreign-born workers lag in S.D. agriculture as labor needs grow
Asian-born residents make up the largest percentage of foreign-born residents in South Dakota
The percentage of foreign-born residents living in South Dakota crept up in the last decade, with the biggest increase among people born in Africa.
Meanwhile, the percentage of foreign-born residents from Latin America decreased, from 30 percent of the state’s foreign-born population in 2010 to 27 percent in 2022, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by The Dakota Scout.
But the state’s percentage of foreign-born residents remains significantly smaller than the nation as a whole. And that is holding back South Dakota’s key agriculture industry, as well as other labor-intensive industries that increasingly lean on foreign workers for labor, say those in the industry.
“We are so sucking air here,” said Doug Sombke, president of the South Dakota Farmers Union. “There is a really big need.”
The numbers back up a study by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank released last month that found states in this region of the United States lag in employing foreign-born workers in their ag industries. Ten percent of workers in animal production in the Fed’s district, which includes the Dakotas and Minnesota, were born outside the United States compared to 18 percent nationally. Five percent of the labor force in crop production was foreign-born, compared to 32 percent nationally.