LANSING, Mich., March 30, 2023 — State Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township) introduced a resolution last week to urge the federal government to expand pathways for legal immigration as a way to help solve Michigan’s agricultural labor crisis.
House Resolution 66 would help Michigan fill legal immigrant positions and increase the availability of H-2A (nonimmigrant) temporary work visas.
“Farmers in my district and throughout the state have told me over and over again that they need more workers,” said Brixie, chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. “Young people are not staying in rural districts, and farm owners are aging out of the profession. We need to find solutions to the labor shortage to make sure that Michigan farms continue to feed our families here at home and throughout the nation.”
The food and agriculture industry contributes nearly $105 billion annually to the state’s economy and accounts for about 17% of the state’s employment. Michigan has almost 10 million acres of farmland and is home to roughly 47,600 farms, 97% of which are family-owned. It leads the nation in the production of tart cherries, cucumbers, dry beans, squash and asparagus, and ranks in the top 10 for production of many other valuable agricultural commodities.
“The dairy industry, like many others, is facing a labor crisis that’s affecting businesses throughout the country. Dairy farming is a 365-day-a-year job, and the current H-2A visa program only provides for seasonal labor rather than the year-round workers the dairy industry needs. There is a critical need to address farm workforce legislation to provide a reliable, legal workforce and ensure a stable food supply,” said Doug Chapin, dairy farmer and chair of the Michigan Milk Producers Association board.