Jul 25, 2021 4:00 PM

Pork producer: We need year-round immigrant workers

Posted Jul 25, 2021 4:00 PM
 Jen Sorenson during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee- image courtesy Judiciary Committee
 Jen Sorenson during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee- image courtesy Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top U.S. pork producer is pushing federal lawmakers to allow immigrant workers to stay on the job year-round.

A spokeswoman for Iowa Select Farms — the state's largest pork producer — told U.S. senators during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week that seasonal employment currently allowed under a federal visa program is insufficient to meet the industry’s needs.

Farmers and meatpacking plants are facing severe labor shortages and need immigrant workers to be able to work year-round, said spokeswoman Jen Sorenson.

“If the labor shortage is not addressed, it could lead to farms and packing plants shutting down, causing serious financial harm to the communities in which they operate,” said Sorenson, who’s also president of the National Pork Producers Council.

Wednesday’s hearing focused on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would provide a pathway to legal status for more than 1 million undocumented farmworkers. The U.S. House passed the bill in March.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, also testified at the hearing.

While Sorenson praised the legislation's call for year-round visas, she urged lawmakers to lift its cap on the number of those visas, saying that would force producers to “compete against one another for the same limited number of year-round visas.