Changes to immigration enforcement may mean higher food prices

Dive Brief:

  • President Donald Trump’s changes to U.S. immigration policy will most likely be felt by those involved in growing, processing or selling food, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • The number of people apprehended illegally crossing the Mexico/U.S. border decreased sharply in between January and February, and there are reports of undocumented immigrants reluctant to work for fear of getting caught.
  • The Pew Research Center estimated that in 2014, there were 8 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. labor force.

Dive Insight:

Now that President Trump is starting to make good on his campaign promises to toughen up on immigration, some undocumented workers are afraid to go to work. The problem for the food industry is that some of these workers are involved with growing or working the harvest.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor has gone on record as saying that more than half of U.S. farm workers are undocumented immigrants.

A recent Pew Research report discovered that more Mexican immigrants are now leaving the U.S. than coming into the country, citing tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

American farmers were already facing worker shortages before Trump took office, and his actions are just enhancing the problem. A lack of workers could push prices higher and could also lead to less supply at the stores.

While it remains to be seen if this fear of deportation will impact crop harvests, one other issue may also impact the price of produce. Republicans in Congress and in the Trump Administration have talked about the possibility of border adjustment taxes, which would add a 20% tax on imported goods. Fearing that tax would lead to a spike in produce costs, grocery leaders have urged the White House not to go this route. A worker's shortage and high import taxes together could have a large impact on food prices throughout the supply chain.

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Filed Under: Manufacturing Grocery Corporate Policy