VIEWPOINT: Legal immigrant workforce key to unleashing South Dakota prosperity
Guest column by Keith Moore, Americans for Prosperity
For the first time in history, the United States is projected to import more agricultural goods than it exports, a problem due in large part to labor shortages on American farms. South Dakota farmers are no strangers to the difficulty of filling open positions with local community members, especially as the younger generation who once may have pursued agricultural jobs flock to large cities instead.
Legal immigrants who attain H-2A visas offer a solution to South Dakota farmers’ workforce woes. Guest labor participation not only boosts agricultural employment in the state's largest industry, but it lowers costs at the supermarket, allows tourism to flourish and re-establishes America as an international competitor in agricultural production. With a few simple reforms, the H-2A visa program could reverse South Dakota’s hiring predicament and unleash a more prosperous economy.
Guest laborers make up 7 percent of all workers in farming, fishing and forestry in South Dakota, according to the American Immigration Council. And their labor is strongly linked to food prices. Last year, Americans saw their grocery bills rise at the fastest pace in more than 40 years. Without enough workers to hire, farmers were forced to charge more for bread, eggs, butter, milk and more, resulting in skyrocketing prices at the grocery store. Independence Day cookouts in 2022 cost Americans 17 percent more than the year before and 27 percent more than before the pandemic. Produce prices will continue to surge unless steps are taken to rectify the worker shortage.
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