Farm workers pick Mirasol Chile in Pueblo County, Colorado. (PULP Photo)
Despite national media reports that immigration and foreign trade policies from the Trump administration are hurting who they're meant to help —U.S. farmers — there's no smoking gun southeastern Colorado farmers are sharing that experience.
For instance, some say that Trump’s tough-on-immigration policy is making it difficult for farmers to hire H2A-visa workers to tend their fields. That doesn’t seem to be the case, at least in southeastern Colorado.
Marilyn Bay Drake, executive director of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, said that the ongoing H2A worker issues have existed well before Trump took office. Among the problems farmers face, she said, lies with E-Verify — the internet-based system that is used by growers to determine whether foreign workers are eligible to work in the U.S.
Bay Drake said E-Verify must undergo significant changes or even be abolished altogether because far too often growers have to turn down potential farm workers because their names do not appear on E-Verify rolls.
Sakata Farms, located near Brighton, left the sweet corn business last year, mostly because it was not able to get a dependable work crew for its six-week season, Bay Drake said. The family operation has grown sweet corn for over half a century.
“They were a big grower,” Bay Drake said. “The annual maintenance cost of their packing house alone was about ($333,000) – so a huge hit to the local community.”