CAPITOL CHATTER: A sea of color greets Minnesota agri-business
ST. PAUL — Pat Lunemann said he looks over his dairy farm employees and sees “a sea a multiple colors.”
Many workers come from close to his Clarissa, Minn., farm, but quite a few are Latino and others bring with them various ethnic backgrounds. Immigrants are important to his farm and agriculture in general, he said.
“All the people in rural America who can work already are working,” he said. “If we don’t have these immigrants, I don’t know how we are going to function.”
Americans do not realize how important immigrants are to the food they buy, Lunemann added. “The average consumer doesn’t understand that the hands of immigrants are touching all the food that is on their table.”
In a time when President Donald Trump has made immigration a major national issue, the ag community is watching carefully.
Mexican immigrants are well known as vegetable field workers in California, but they now are working on farms all the way to the East Coast. In the Midwest, they make up much of the workforce at many meat and poultry processing plants.
In recent years, immigrants from places like Somalia started coming in increasing numbers, with some taking agriculture-related jobs.
Ludemann is chairman of AgriGrowth, an organization that brings together farmers, agri-businesses and others interested in promoting the industry. While he visited the Capitol to talk to Forum News Service and other media organizations about state issues, he also delved into federal policies such as immigration.
The group, with Executive Director Perry Aasness, places immigration reform among its top five federal issues because of the rural Minnesota labor shortage.
“Providing a sustainable workforce for Minnesota’s agricultural sector is critical to our state and our nation’s economic prosperity,” an AgriGrowth fact sheet reads.
How the Trump administration deals with trade, especially with countries like China and Mexico, will impact Minnesota agriculture.
Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border may not have a big impact on ag by itself, Aasness said, but placing a surcharge on imports to fund the wall could cause a trade war that would hurt.
Knowing that Trump is in the White House because of rural American voters, Aasness said that there is hope that he will treat agriculture well.
The Minnesota AgriGrowth Council is a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization representing the agriculture and food systems industry. Formed in 1968, AgriGrowth’s strategic approach to public policy advocacy, issues management and collaboration seeks to foster long-term sustainability, competitiveness, and business growth.