Food Price Rise without Immigration Reform – Another Faux Study

wheatfieldThe New York Times, which used to be a serious newspaper, uncritically reports on a study commissioned by the American Farm Bureau – an obviously vested interest – that found the cost of agricultural produce would rise if immigration reform is not enacted and instead the current immigration law were enforced against employers hiring illegal aliens.

How could that be since there is a visa program (H-2A) that allows for an unlimited supply of seasonal agricultural guest workers? That AFB’s response is that the H-2A visa program is “overly bureaucratic” and doesn’t allow for year-round work. Those limitations that are designed to protect the jobs of U.S. workers affect the use of the program for jobs like meat processing and dairy. But the study’s findings were about a rise in cost of agricultural produce, not meat prices, so that argument does not wash.

It is correct that effective enforcement of the current law against agricultural employers who hire illegal workers would force greater use of the H-2A visa program, and that would result in slightly higher prices for fruit and vegetable prices. That is because the H-2A program is designed to halt and reverse the decline in agricultural wages that has resulted from the widespread hiring of illegal workers.

Apparently the American Farm Bureau and the NYT are in favor of a seasonal farm workforce forever condemned to subsistence wages that will be increasingly attractive to only exploited foreign workers.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    Studies have shown that a 50% increase in the cost of agricultural labor would only result in a very small increase in the cost of produce, something like $50 a year for a family of four. Don’t hold me exactly to those figures, but they’re “in the ballpark”

  2. avatar
    Barbara Griffith on

    With the drought in Calif so bad and getting worse by the day all of the illegal workers in towns like Bakersfield are being fed out of food banks. There is no jobs for these people. What they should do is go home to their own country, but as long as amnesty might be passed none of them will move no matter what happens to the farm work. Vegetables are expected to climb in price but a lot of the summer vegies also come from Mexico so that will alleviate some of the losses for the consumer. I live in Washington state and the supermarkets are encouraging the local farmers to sell directly to them so a lot of the produce is marketed locally, that means we won’t have to depend on Calif for every head of lettuce.

  3. avatar

    Without all the illegals our food prices would stay about the same or maybe even decline. Why you ask, the reason being we would not have so many people on food stamps plus this added burden on our water supply because of all these free loaders. As always though our politicians will stretch the truth till it is no longer recognizable!

  4. avatar

    Why does the American Farm Bureau hate farmers?

    USDA projects that farm income will nosedive 27 percent, nearly $50 billion, this year. The Wall Street Journal reports farm values are on the decline, down 3 percent in Iowa and 1 percent in Nebraska.

    While disaster visits the farm, Farm Bureau is fighting to push incomes and values down even more. Their own study of the impacts of immigration reform certifies that their preferred legislative outcome will send farm income and values down even more.

    Can’t Farm Bureau leave the liberal meddling to Barack Obama and leave well enough alone? Abandon income busting immigration amnesty and work on policies that keep farm incomes up.

  5. avatar

    Of course, those low wages exist only as long as illegal aliens remain illegally–or if legalized, as long as employers have access to MORE illegal workers. Legalize the farm workers and they’ll move on to better-paying jobs under better conditions, driving down wages for AMERICANS in those new industries. Heck, they already do that in construction, food service, etc. Then what’ll the farmers do? (The Senate bill, from what I’ve read, indentures farm workers to farm work for several years if they want green cards.)

    • avatar

      Just because they work here is not a reason to give them green cards. This is the reason that farmers should pay more and even if the govt has to subsidize that salary, and use American workers. To keep passing out green cards means they are creating legalization who will use our welfare systems, inflate our population, heavily impact our water, food supply, sewer systems, healthcare, schools, everything….we have a dysfunctional govt…they don’t follow what happens along this line of green cards…totally irresponsible!

      We need our farmers, we cannot continue to trust the world for clean food and to be our producers. It makes more sense to support our farmers. We are already dependent on the middle east, mexico for oil, and now we are shipping our chickens to china, I am not looking forward to that, the country that gave us toxic dog food, toxic baby formula, toxic sheet rock, lead based toys, etc, now our govt is going to put our health on the line once again with china to process our chickens and ship them back for market…Just so I understand how our govt works, we no longer build, produce, process and then not grow anything anymore. When a country is deliberately poisoning us, we should not buy their foods for ourselves and our pets!