Skip to main content

West Jordan Journal

Utah’s farmers seeking more legal employees during employment crisis

Aug 07, 2022 08:45PM ● By Erin Dixon

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

‘Labor shortage’ is a common statement from businesses, and farmers are crying the same.

On June 30, the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, the Salt Lake Chamber and the American Business Immigration Coalition held a press conference to bring awareness to a bill they are lobbying to pass in the Senate to help with the open jobs they struggle to fill.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in 2021, but the agricultural industry needs more. The Act established a Certified Agricultural Worker status for aliens that; worked over 1,035 hours of agricultural work during the year before, was previously living here illegally, and had been living in the United States continuously. CAW grants legal residence for five and a half years to the individual, along with dependent spouse and children.

The press release stated the organizations are working for "much-needed improvements on the House's solutions" and want the process to move forward faster into the Senate.

“We (agricultural farm owners) are facing a massive labor shortage,” the press release states. “Agriculture is important. Not only for keeping food on the shelf for Americans but it is one of the foundational engines of our state’s economy.

Sixth generation farmer and president of the Farm Bureau Federation, Ron Gibson, said the unemployment rate in Utah is so low, it is hard to find legal workers.

“We have a less than 2% unemployment rate in the state of Utah,” Gibson said. “It’s simply changing the way we do business.”

He and other farmers are looking to immigrants to fill the employment needs.

“This really isn’t about Hispanics or non-Hispanic, it is about the fact we have to have people that can work here in the agricultural industry,” Gibson said.

The hope of the new bill is to allow immigrants to get legal status quickly so they can work safely.

“We have to make our borders something that people can come legally and work and live and pay taxes and have a life,” Gibson said.

President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, Derek Miller, said that it is too hard for people to immigrate to the United States.

“It is true that we often hear that our immigration system is broken, but the even sadder truth is that is understating the problem. It is not just a system that is broken, it is a system that is upside down and backwards.

“Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill. Treat people humanely, especially in circumstances that many did not choose. [This is] not quality of life, it is life itself. Everyone needs food…and farmers need workers,” Miller said.