- Reuters/Mike Blake
Besides the human cost, Trump’s anti-immigration stance could also strain American farms. Of the 1.5 to 2 million people working in agriculture today, at least 50% to 70% of farm workers are undocumented, according to a recent report by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
If the agriculture sector were to eliminate all undocumented workers, the US would be left with a $30 to $60 billion food production loss, the researchers write.
Retail food prices would increase by 5% to 6% on average, with some categories seeing higher jumps than others. For example, the National Milk Producers Federation expects a 90% increase in milk prices if the country removes the immigrant labor supply, Modern Farmer reports.
The report also states that few US workers would be able to fill these farm labor jobs, mainly because they are grueling. Shifts in 100-degree Farenheit weather over 12-hour shifts without overtime pay are common. The demand for farm labor far exceeds the local supply of workers who are skilled, legal citizens, according to the AFBF report. This is especially true in agriculture-heavy parts of states like California and Texas.
Some parts of the US are already experiencing the effects of stricter immigration laws on farms. In 2011, after Georgia passed an immigration enforcement law called HB 87, the state experienced an estimated $140 million in agricultural losses. Farms in Georgia were about 40% short of the number of workers they needed, according to a University of Georgia study. As Quartz notes, one farmer let a third of his crops die in his field because he couldn’t find enough workers.
Georgia’s former governor, Sonny Perdue – whom Trump nominated for the Secretary of Agriculture position on January 18 – will be in charge of mitigating all this.