As owners, operators and members of multigenerational family farms in Maine — Penny with Jordan’s Farm, a mixed vegetable operation, and Jenni with Flood Brothers, one of Maine’s 172 dairy farm families — we well know that the increasing cost of food is due partly to the extreme difficulty farmers have in securing long-term, sustainable labor on our farms.

According to Maine Farm Operations, as of 2015, immigrants made up 18% of all farmworkers in the state. They are essential to our ability to get food from our farms to Maine’s tables, and their importance has only grown as Maine’s workforce continues to age and shrink and the state’s unemployment rates have returned to nearly pre-pandemic levels.

The USDA has predicted that food prices could rise up to 10% in 2022. This hurts Maine families and Maine’s important restaurant sector. The lack of enough seasonal and year-round farm workers is a critical factor affecting food prices and is one direct result of antiquated federal immigration policies. Maine households that need to put food on the table shouldn’t be the ones paying the price for outdated and dysfunctional immigration laws.

In 2021, the House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act to improve our federal immigration laws affecting farms and farmworkers, with bipartisan support. That was a good start. Now in the Senate, Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mike Bennet, D-Colo., have taken the lead in negotiating improvements on the House’s solutions and moving the process forward. Passing new Senate legislation is critical to solving labor shortages facing the Maine agriculture sector and sustaining the state’s economy as a whole.

That’s why we’re calling urgently on Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to get firmly behind Sens. Crapo’s and Bennet’s efforts to modernize how we hire foreign farmworkers, cutting out the bureaucracy that makes this an ordeal year after year, when really what we need is multi-season access to the same highly skilled workers.

On the flip side, these incredibly hardworking folks, many of whom become like family to us and are members of our communities, deserve good wages, safe working conditions and a pathway to permanent residency in the U.S. in return for all they do to help make sure food gets from our family farms to the family table.


This isn’t just the ethical and fair thing to do. It’s crucial for our economy A recent Texas A&M International University study on the link between stabilizing the agricultural workforce and decreasing inflation and consumer prices shows that ensuring farmers have a stable, reliable, fairly paid and legal workforce is crucial to keeping America’s grocery shelves stocked, combating inflation and lowering food prices for all domestic consumers.

Additionally, addressing workforce shortages facing farm employers and stabilizing the H-2A visa application process is imperative for enhancing our national food security by protecting domestic agriculture production. According to the USDA, the U.S. will be importing more agricultural goods than we export in 2023.

The reality is that in Maine and across the country, immigrant workers are the backbone of the agricultural workforce in the U.S. Without them, we will not be able to feed our nation.

Our family farms run on the grit, goodness and skills of Mainers, many of whom were not born in the U.S. but now call Maine home. We need a new system that will let us keep them in our employ and in our communities without having to reinvent the wheel every year — and that will let them actually plan lives and families long-term in Maine. We need a system that acknowledges their crucial contributions to our food systems and ensures that they are able to live and work without fear.

Again, it’s the right thing to do. But more to the point, we really don’t have a choice. We need Sens. Collins and King to get behind this legislation immediately so that the Senate can take action this year.

Penny Jordan is one of the owners of Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth, and Jenni Tilton-Flood is a farm family member of Flood Brothers Farm in Clinton.

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