Impact of new immigration orders being felt locally
Victoria Addison, Rosa Acheson and Daniel Zuckerman are reporting for Columbia-Greene Media on the anticipated impact of recent immigration orders issued by the new Republican administration on the local agricultural economy. Keri Latiolais, a Columbia County vegetable and animal farmer, said the new policies have created a sense of fear. “We already know of some farms that just aren’t going to plant what they’ve planted in the past because they know they won’t have the labor to pick it,” Latiolais said. “We won’t be able to find enough employees if we lose all of the immigrants here,” she said. Latiolais said she does not believe people understand how the loss of immigrants will impact their food system. Derek Grout of Valatie-based Harvest Spirits said people cannot devalue immigrant labor if they value their own food security. “Foreign labor is so critical to young, new farms, old established dairy farms, even a lot of fruit farms,” Grout said. “You cannot devalue immigrant labor if you value your own food security — the ability to grow your own food in your own country.” Harvest Spirits uses workers from Jamaica through a temporary work visa program, as well as qualified, local residents. Farm labor requires skilled work that can be done in large quantity, seasonally, he said. Farm employees are not transient, he said, but are skilled laborers who are loyal to the farms that hire them. In Greene County, 21 percent of the land is used for agricultural production, according to an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension. In Columbia County nearly half of the land -- 48 percent -- is used for farming. Read the full story in The Daily Mail.