American agriculture thrives because of immigrant labor. Farm labor is specialized work contrary to how Immigration & Customs Enforcement classifies agriculture. Growing strawberries, peaches, apples, five kinds of greens, blueberries, tomatoes, squashes, and numerous other vegetables and fruits requires knowledge. You can learn how to grow and harvest these foods well, but you still have to learn it. As we deal with the effects of climate change, new pests and diseases, and innovations in agriculture, we have to keep learning, developing more skills and cultivating our knowledge.
With sadness, we have had to say goodbye to participating in the H2A program, because of its restrictions, difficulty for small farms in dealing with administration, unpredictability, and unfairness. The program still works for large agricultural spreads, but it is hard on smaller farmers, because of the amount of time in administration, the prohibition on bonuses, the limitation on pay, and the hiring requirements and, essentially, penalties. It is a situation where the incentives for breaking the law are very high for small and medium sized farmers. We do not want to break the law. But the law was breaking our ability to be fair to all our staff and good farmers. So we have left the H2A program this year.
We are deeply grateful to Bryce and Campbell for all their hard work, their dedication, and the tremendous skills and knowledge they brought to Pietree. They are shining examples of why agricultural labor should be considered skilled and treated more like the H2B visa program. They are doing well, and home in Jamaica, where they have their own farms. We miss them, and we wish them all the best.
We believe that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary, and that attention needs to be paid to who feeds America. For decades, American farms have relied on locals working closely with migrant labor to make a safe and abundant food supply. We’re in this together, one world, with diverse skills and knowledge that need to be celebrated, appreciated, and accessible to one another.