Problem 1: The continuing influx of immigrants into the U.S.
Problem 2: The continuing shortage of labor at food & beverage plants.
Doesn't that sound like two problems with the same solution?
The month of September was filled with stories of immigrants getting bused to Washington and liberal/Democratic cities or airlifted to Martha's Vineyard. They made for great theater ... and a lot of acrimony. No matter how liberal and welcoming you want to be, you have to acknowledge the pressure these immigrants are putting on border states such as Texas and Arizona.
Meanwhile, finding workers throughout this country, and for food & beverage facilities in particular, is critical. There's enough inertia in Washington that nothing's been done about immigration in years, but maybe this two-birds-one-stone situation will get things moving.
Accepting at least some immigrants has been the hallmark of this country forever; after all, except for Native Americans, we're all immigrants. And there are certain countries out there in the world that have become hellholes. Venezuela comes to mind, and that's where many of the current immigrants come from. But we do need a plan and a process to handle this influx.
Interestingly, there is a template for this idea. The Canadian government launched the Agri-Food Pilot Program in 2020 to address the labor needs of the Canadian agri-food sector, especially the meat processing sector. The program provides a pathway to permanent residence for experienced, non-seasonal workers in specific industries and occupations. It will run until May 2023.
Unfortunately, the launch of the program coincided with Covid, which created obstacles for both applicants and the government. Marie-France Mackinnon, a senior vice president for the Canadian Meat Council, is hopeful her government still may enact changes to make the pilot more accessible and successful. "Our research has shown that when allowed to stay and immigrate, 90% of [temporary foreign workers] stay at the plant for 10 years or more, which in many cases helps build rural Canada, where these plants are located."
Such a simple solution to two vexing problems. But if Ottawa can't get it done, what chance have we that Washington will?
The past month also saw private companies stepping up. PepsiCo, Tyson Foods and Cargill were among the corporations that pledged to hire refugees arriving in the U.S. The pledges were organized by the Tent Partnership for Refugees, an advocacy organization founded by Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani, himself an immigrant. Dozens of companies of all kinds made commitments totaling 22,725 jobs over three years for refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and other troubled parts of the world.
"These companies will benefit from welcoming these hard-working, loyal, and resilient individuals – but my hope is that this is only the beginning,” Ulukaya said. “Companies must recognize that hiring refugees is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do."