Thursday, March 19, 2020

Food Shortages Looming

The U.S. government announced Monday that "in response to the global pandemic COVID-19, and in line with the Mexican government's call to increase social distancing, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and all U.S. consulates in Mexico will suspend routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services starting March 18, 2020, and until further notice."

While images of barren grocery store shelves grab headlines and circulate on social media as people worldwide stock up on staples to get through the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, farmers in the United States are warning that the Trump administration's decision to limit seasonal workers from Mexico could soon lead to labor and food shortages.

Reuters reported Tuesday on U.S. fruit and vegetable growers "bracing for dramatic disruptions to their labor force" because of the guest worker changes:
"While the harvesting of grains like wheat and corn is mostly automated in the United States, fruit and vegetable farmers rely on seasonal guest workers to pick their crops."

"When the process is stopped midstream, it likely means those crews won't be there exactly when they're needed, if they get there at all. That means lost crops. That means lost food," said Dave Puglia, president of the Western Growers Association, which represents fruit and vegetable growers in states including California and Arizona.

Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy at the United Fresh Produce Association, told Bloomberg, "There won't be anyone to harvest the crops," Guenther said. "It will be devastating to growers and ultimately to the supply chain and consumers. They won't have the food."

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, emphasized, "The decision to halt visa application processing in Mexico will restrict the number of immigrant workers being allowed to enter the country," said Duvall. "Under the new restrictions, American farmers will not have access to all of the skilled immigrant labor needed at a critical time in the planting season. This threatens our ability to put food on Americans' tables."

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