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Food prices will rise without immigration reform, Utah farmers warn

Published February 12, 2014 1:31 pm

Agriculture • Enforcement-only policy could boost food prices by 5 to 6 percent a year, new report says.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's farmers say any immigration reform that focuses only on immigration enforcement could raise food prices by 5 percent to 6 percent a year.

So says a new report by the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services, commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Utah farmers are pushing its results as part of a monthlong national campaign seeking immigration reform.

"Utah's agriculture industry cannot grow while America's immigration system remains broken," said Leland Hogan, president of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. "With immigrants making up to 80 percent of hired farm labor, our farmers desperately need a stable, legal workforce to continue producing an abundant, safe and affordable food supply."

He noted in a news release that the report also estimated that enforcement-only immigration would cause U.S. fruit production to fall by $7.6 billion to $15.4 billion; vegetable production to drop by $3.9 billion to $8 billion; and livestock production by $16.4 billion to $34.1 billion.

"While reform sits idle, crops rot in fields and millions of dollars in productivity go to waste," said Robert McMullin, owner of McMullin Orchards in Payson.

"As a rancher from Park City, we would be out of business tomorrow if we didn't have immigrants help us with our sheep herding operation," said Stephen Osguthorpe.

He added, "We have advertised locally for labor and can't get any applicants for this type of work, which pushes us to find labor elsewhere. The legal immigration process takes too long and requires a lot paperwork to get these immigrant workers. Immigration reform is long overdue."