Local farmer needs workers: National farm labor shortage hits home

Brian Reeves thrives on what he does. He co-owns the family's Baldwinsville farm with his brother Mark, employs his other brother Andy, and answers to no one but himself.

July and August, when summer is in its glory, are months of stress and strain for Reeves. During this time, heavy lifting, logistical planning, dirt, more dirt, managing people, and very little sleep compose the hours of his seven-day workweek.

Drought doesn't throw him, he's figured out his irrigation needs. High fuel costs don't test his checkbook, he's made them work for him. The biggest challenge for Reeves is getting his crops harvested.

The contentious national debate over immigration is felt closely by our region's farmers and throws a wrench in the otherwise content workings of Reeves Farms. When farm help doesn't show up when it is supposed to because crossing the borders for seasonal work becomes too risky for immigrants, Reeves and his farm begins to struggle.

"You can import your food or import your labor," Reeves said. He is not alone in feeling frustrated.

National farm labor shortage

On Oct. 4, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture heard farmers and representatives of agricultural interest groups tell of revenue losses caused by the national shortage of farm labor.

In a written statement, Ranking Minority Member Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said, "Workers need access to stable, legal, temporary employment. It is in our nation's interest to create a sensible way for workers to come in on a temporary basis, fill empty jobs and go back to their home countries."

Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, farm labor was a quiet issue that rarely posed a problem. The world is different now.

Today, crossing borders has become a complex maneuver for workers eager to get their hands dirty and work hard on American soil. The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement enact their sentinel duties at a high pitch. Potential workers are prevented entry and laborers already here fear raids.

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