Agricultural groups are pushing for reforms to ease labor shortages

Kansas City, Mo. – A coalition of agricultural groups says a shortage of workers on Kansas and Missouri farms makes food harder to find and more expensive for everyone.

Agriculture leaders are pushing for legislation to make it easier for immigrants to work on farms legally.

A Kansas agricultural assessment conducted this year shows more than half of the farm jobs in the Sunflower State are going unfilled.

At a nursery in Ottawa, Kan., Lyndsi Oestmann says she has acres of land left unplanted because she can’t find enough labor.

He is part of the American Business Immigration Coalition, which is seeking a US Senate bill that would help solve the agricultural labor shortage by making it easier for farms to hire immigrant workers with temporary agricultural worker visas.

“It is urgent that we get those who graduate as farmers like me and other farmers in Kansas to get the labor we need,” said Oestmann. “So we don’t have to worry days and weeks if we’re going to have enough manpower to do the work we need to do.”

A study from Texas A&M University says bolstering farm labor will help curb inflation and rising consumer prices of food.

Some Kansas dairy farmers are even calling for permanent legal immigration, with a potential path to citizenship for immigrant farm workers who make their families part of rural communities year-round.

“We have a lot of Hispanic workers working at our dairy now,” said Lee Holtmeier, owner of Linn Willow Creek Dairy. “They are very influential in our schools and our town and our churches. And they are very community-minded, we love to have them.”

Food security is becoming an even more important concern because according to the US Department of Agriculture, next year, for the first time in American history, our nation will import more agricultural products than we export.

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