“We Have to Move Away From this Notion that Agriculture Is Unskilled Labor,” Says Jenet DeCosta

During a recent conversation at The Future of Food @ SXSW in Austin, Texas, Chief of Staff for Driscoll’s Jenet DeCosta discussed the importance of immigration policy to the United States food system.

“We can’t forget the individuals that provide us with our food,” DeCosta says. She argues that it is important that farm workers and the policies affecting them remain top of mind for policymakers, retailers, and consumers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly half of farm workers in the country lack work authorization. Growers are also increasingly reporting labor shortages on their farms.

To help push for immigration reform and make it easier and safer for farm workers to work in the U.S., DeCosta says that shifting perceptions of farm work is key. “We have to move away from this notion that agriculture is unskilled labor.”

Also key is recognizing the individual farm workers contributing to the food system. “Farm workers are not a monolith, they’re not an idea,” DeCosta says “They’re individual people who are going to work every day. And we need to see them.”

DeCosta says that these changes can facilitate changes to the policy landscape. “If you start thinking [about policy] in terms of how does it affect people instead of how does it affect the idea of a person, you start to get to real solutions.”

These changes will not only support growers and the food system as a whole, she adds. They can also support resilient and thriving communities that supports farm workers, their families, and their neighbors. “Living in fear destabilizes a community.”

Watch the full conversation here:

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