Iowa's largest pork producer urges year-round visas for foreign workers to meet labor shortage


Donnelle Eller and Stephen Gruber-Miller, Des Moines Register

Jul 21, 2021


A spokeswoman for a top Iowa pork producer told U.S. senators Wednesday that farmers and meatpacking plants face severe labor shortages and need the federal government to allow them to employ immigrant workers year-round.


Jen Sorenson, communications director of Iowa Select Farms, the state's largest pork producer, said seasonal employment currently allowed under a federal visa program is insufficient to meet the industry's needs.


"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.


She testified during a U.S Senate judiciary committee hearing Wednesday along with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, U.S. Agriculture secretary.


Access to foreign workers year-round is part of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a controversial bill that would provide a pathway to legal status for more than 1 million undocumented farmworkers. The U.S. House passed the bill in March.


"If we give legal status to hundreds of thousands of people without first securing the border, won't we see a rush to the border?" Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, asked Vilsack...


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