Year-Round Pork Needs Year-Round Workers
Cristina Carmona is the technical trainer manager at Prestage Farms in Oklahoma. Cristina, who was born in Mexico and grew up raising cattle, came to the United States in 2003 to obtain her master’s degree in agribusiness. As the lead international recruiter at Prestage Farms, she is all too familiar with the labor shortage throughout the U.S. pork industry.
“In the farms, it’s day in, day out. It’s not just seasonal. We need to have people on the farms taking care of the pigs….Sometimes it’s difficult for us to extend the stay of those [international] employees that we have. They want to excel…and they want to contribute in their communities. We don’t want to lose these international recruits,” she added.
Current Labor Constraints
The U.S. pork industry is suffering from a serious labor shortage, negatively impacting farms and processing plants. This challenge undermines a critical economic sector that is key to prosperity in rural America. The U.S. pork industry offers good jobs with solid pay and benefits, but most Americans don’t live near our hog farms or harvest facilities, and rural populations continue to decline. As a result, the U.S. pork industry is largely dependent on foreign-born workers. Unfortunately, current visa programs fail to meet the workforce needs of U.S. pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers.
The pork industry uses the H-2A visa program for specialized work, but cannot use the program for most labor needs because of its seasonal limitation. Without visa reform to support a viable workforce for U.S. agriculture, this issue is likely to cause increasing harm to the agriculture industry, ultimately leading to higher food prices for consumers.
Learn more about the essential roles of foreign-born workers in the pork supply chain:
- Cristina Carmona, Prestage Farms, Oklahoma;
- Juan Marroquin, LB Pork, Minnesota;
- Victor Martinez, Schwartz Farms, Minnesota; and
- Yuri Rafael, Springer Family Foods, Kansas
Visa reform is needed to ensure that U.S. livestock agriculture can compete globally and continue to provide plentiful, affordable pork to Americans and consumers worldwide. U.S. pork producers are proud of the diversity on our farms and across the pork production supply chain. As Cristina, Juan, Victor and Yuri explained, working in the U.S. pork industry has created the opportunity to come to the United States and become integrated in their communities. Strengthening the communities where we operate is a shared value across the U.S. pork industry.
To address the labor shortage, NPPC is advocating for reforming the H-2A visa program to include year-round labor without a cap, and providing legal status for agricultural workers already in the country. We look forward to working with Congress and the administration on visa reform to address a critical need, allowing us to continue providing year-round pork to consumers here at home and around the globe.