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Employing Agriculture: How the Midwest Farm and Food Sector Relies on Immigrant Labor

RESEARCH Policy Brief by Stephanie Mercier
A barn in a field of grass, with a sun setting in the background
Timothy Eberly

Foreign-born workers are on the land, in laboratories, and everywhere in between. Immigration reform will strengthen Midwest agriculture.

Agriculture is an important part of the Midwestern economy, providing billions of dollars in business revenues and supplying thousands of jobs to the 12-state region. The success of the agriculture sector—including dairy farmers in Wisconsin, seed corn producers in Iowa, food processors in Minnesota, apple and cherry growers in Michigan, and equipment manufacturers in Illinois—rests on the shoulders of immigrants. Although many lobbyists and policymakers from across the nation are working to develop new immigration legislation to address the needs of the agricultural industries, Midwest immigration issues are in some cases different from other parts of the country. And even as President Obama’s November 20 announcement of Immigration Accountability Executive Action provides limited benefit to the agriculture sector, it fails to fully address Midwest agriculture’s unique needs for legislative immigration reform.

About the Author
Stephanie Mercier
Senior Policy Adviser, Farm Journal Foundation
Stephanie Mercier, Senior Policy Adviser, Farm Journal Foundation