Illegal Labor on the Farm Produces Big Profits for Agribusiness, Little Savings to Consumers, Finds New Report by FAIR
(April 13, 2011 — Washington, D.C.) - The widespread use of illegal foreign labor by large agribusinesses results in huge profits for corporate farms, while consumers continue to see rising prices at the supermarket checkout, finds a new report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The report, Illegal Immigration and Agribusiness: The Effects on the Agricultural Industry of Converting to a Legal Workforce, debunks the claims made by the corporate agribusiness that an illegal alien labor force is necessary to the survival of America’s food industry.
Already heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, agriculture was the most profitable sector of the U.S. economy between 1998 and 2008. Yet, the wages paid to farm workers is about half of what similarly skilled workers earn in other sectors of the labor market. Illegal Immigration and Agribusiness finds that the industry could substantially raise wages to attract a legal workforce, resulting in little or no increase in costs to consumers, and still maintain healthy profits.
Among the key findings of Illegal Immigration and Agribusiness are:
Legal farm workers accept wages between 18% and 22% higher than those paid to illegal aliens. A wage increase in that range could easily be absorbed by corporate agriculture with little impact on consumers or corporate profits.
Increasing wages to farm workers has been shown to increase the available supply of domestic labor.
Because the agricultural industry enjoys unlimited access to legal H-2A guest workers, they would have no difficulty finding legal workers to replace illegal aliens.
Large agricultural businesses, not family farmers, are the primary employers of illegal alien labor.
“This week, we mark the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War, fought, in part, to end Southern agriculture’s dependence on slave labor. One hundred and fifty years later, our nation’s agricultural industry is still engaged in exploitative labor practices that are economically unnecessary,” said Dan Stein, president of FAIR. “Like the Southern plantation barons, today’s agribusinesses believe that they have a right to workers at the prices they wish to pay and the conditions they wish to provide.
“As our nation has learned, over and over again, doing what is morally wrong and economically expedient for narrow interests, inevitably harms our society,” continued Stein. “America’s agricultural industry would continue to flourish even if corporate farmers were required to employ a legal labor force at higher wages.”