Farmworker advocates argue that if we want to revitalize the food economy, we must embrace—and not criminalize—immigrants.
The U.S. food economy is in dire need of transformation. Many of our rural communities are suffering, small and mid-sized farms are becoming less and less tenable, and it is increasingly difficult to trust that the food we buy will be safe to eat.
The good news is that immigrants have many of the skills and knowledge to turn things around.
Yet, rather than celebrating farmworkers and other food system workers—many of whom lack legal authorization—the Trump administration demonizes them. In the process, our current policies are placing the country’s agricultural system at risk.
People are leaving the countryside. Rural people now comprise just 14 percent of the overall U.S. population, and that number has been falling consistently over that last few decades. In addition, farmers are getting older and retiring. According to the latest Agricultural Census, the average age of the American farmers rose from 56.3 in 2012 to 57.5 in 2017, and much of the next generation is opting to move to cities for less physically demanding jobs that provide a more reliable income. Currently, there are just over 2 million farms in operation, and a much smaller percentage produce the bulk of the calories. In a country of more than 325 million people, one farmer is responsible for feeding approximately 170 people.