Over the past five years the Farm Labor Task Force of the League of Women Voters Leelanau County (LWVLC) studied and hosted public programs regarding the labor challenges faced by our local agricultural employers in Leelanau County. Each year agricultural employers experience the challenge of securing a skilled, reliable, seasonal workforce in a highly competitive market. This issue affects the agricultural economy throughout Michigan, but particularly here in Leelanau County, the northern most destination in the migrant stream of agricultural workers.
In 2012 the Farm Labor Task Force completed a study of the hiring practices and visa issues confronting our agricultural employers who must recruit and retain migrant/seasonal workers, many accompanied by nonworking family members. This first study was undertaken mindful of the fact that both employers and workers are challenged by the lack of a streamlined, comprehensive federal immigration and guest worker policy. In 2013 the LWVLC then focused on what factors influence migrant/seasonal workers to travel, often over 1,000 miles, to Leelanau County. Through interviews of over 50 agricultural employers, workers and support agencies, it was determined that quality of life issues: housing, treatment by law enforcement, education, health care, and other services are compelling factors in attracting a viable workforce. With this report, the LWVLC hopes to make are citizens more aware of labor challenges facing our agricultural employers. Based on this report and the resulting position statement, the League will advocate in support attracting migrant/seasonal agricultural workers to our county.
See League Comments to EPA Science Advisory Board http://www.lwv.org/content/league-offers-comments-epa-science-advisory-board