HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Agriculture industry experts, Hidalgo County city officials, and business leaders gathered at a press conference Thursday morning to call for action on farm labor shortages and increasing food prices.
“We call on upon our Texas senators, Senator John Cornyn, and Senator Ted Cruz, to act,” said Dante Galeazzi, the president and CEO of Texas International Produce Association.
Galeazzi along with other experts said the issues are happening across the nation.
“The agriculture sector is facing a devastating labor shortage today. This must be urgently addressed to keep grocery stores stocked and lower food prices for Texans and Americans everywhere,” said Juan Carlos Cerda, the Texas Director and Deputy Campaign Director of the American Business Immigration Coalition.
The shortage of workers is affecting companies like Little Bear Produce in Edinburg, according to the company’s executive vice president of business affairs, Bret Erickson.
“We have struggled for years to find enough labor to harvest and pack our products and as that shortage in labor has occurred the cost in production has increased,” said Erickson.
He said using the H2-A Temporary Agricultural Program is helping them with labor.
H2-A allows businesses like Little Bear Produce to bring foreign workers to work in the U.S. temporarily.
Erickson said the program can be expensive and cumbersome.
These issues have trickled down to small businesses like Juicy Fresh in McAllen.
Natalie Flores, the owner, and general manager of Juicy Fresh said she is paying more for produce, causing her to make changes to her pricing.
“We try to do specials, we try not to raise our prices too high and work together so that we’re able to manage and still be open and still be here and provide our services,” said Flores. Organizations and businesses are hoping for change before the November elections.
The passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is one solution they are hoping Texas senators support.
It would allow better benefits for farm workers and would help recruit more workers to fill current shortages.