Leelanau, Grand Traverse Counties Farmers Discuss Impact of Possible Immigration Reform

Here in northern Michigan the discussion of President Trump’s announcement on immigration reform centers on how the proposal will impact the farming industry which uses a lot of migrant labor.

9&10’s Megan Woods spoke with farmers in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties to gauge their reaction in our top story at six. 

“Michigan agriculture would definitely be hurt tremendously if we couldn’t get the people we now have been able to get,” says Leelanau County farmer James Bardenhagen.

Migrant workers play a major role in Michigan’s agriculture industry.

At Bardenhagen Farms workers are known to pick a lot of crops quickly and efficiently, but a merit-based green card isn’t good news for them.

Bardenhagen says, “It depends a lot on what they view as a skill so we consider farming small businesses and I’m just hoping that they want to help small businesses rather than curtail harvest and that sort of thing for us.”

At Santucci farm on Old Mission Peninsula the legislation doesn’t make a difference.

They say their workers are citizens and as for some of their fellow farmers, many enter the country using a different program.

Marc Santucci says, “The H1 and H2 Visa are for temporary workers, and the H1 Visa is for skilled workers and the H2 Visa is for unskilled workers and that’s not being effected at all.”

Both farms want to see immigration reform, but Bardenhagen says this isn’t the way. “So we’ll just have to see more of the details, but we’d like to see more comprehensive overhauling of the immigration than just limiting people who come in based on skills.”

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