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Pork Industry Seeks Unlimited Immigrant Workforce

The pork industry can’t afford to wait for workers to “Call me when you’re an American.” The National Pork Producers Council says that if we want our wieners, we must welcome foreign workers:

Despite competitive wages and an expanding workforce, the U.S. pork industry continues to struggle with a labor shortage that will require access to more foreign-born workers to remain sustainable, according to a study by Iowa State University economists….

According to the study, from 2001-2020, employment in the U.S. pork industry grew by an annual rate of 1.5 percent, four times faster than employment growth in all U.S. industries. Despite expanded wages and jobs, the U.S. pork industry is facing a significant domestic labor shortage due to a dwindling and aging rural labor population where hog farms and harvest facilities are located, the study noted. From 2014-2019, the rural labor force shrank in five of the eight top pork-producing states, it found.

Foreign-born workers have been critical to the U.S. pork industry’s economic growth, the study found. “In many rural labor markets, immigrant workers have lessened the negative effect of net out-migration, helping to keep rural communities in these markets economically viable.” However, pork producers continue to struggle with ongoing labor shortages, and native-born workers and permanent residents cannot offset the need for foreign-born employees, the study concluded….

Current visa programs designed for seasonal agriculture—such as the H-2A visa—fail to meet the workforce needs of U.S. pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers. To address the labor shortage, NPPC is advocating for year-round access to the H-2A visa program without a cap [National Pork Producers Council, press release, 2021.08.04].

Here’s the graph from the Iowa State study showing the rural workforce changes in those eight top pork-producing states (of which South Dakota is not one):

Christian Boessen, Georgeanne Artz, and Lee Schulz; updated by Holly Cook; "A Baseline Study of Labor Issues and Trends in U.S. Pork Production," Iowa State University, commissioned by National Pork Producers Council, updated August 2021, p. 26.
Christian Boessen, Georgeanne Artz, and Lee Schulz, updated by Holly Cook, “A Baseline Study of Labor Issues and Trends in U.S. Pork Production,” Iowa State University, commissioned by National Pork Producers Council, updated August 2021, p. 26.

This need for immigrant labor is nothing new for Big Ag or for rural South Dakota in general. With all of us local folks getting older and having fewer babies, the only way to fully staff the industries producing all the goods and services we want to consume is to import workers from elsewhere. Politicians who campaign against immigration are thus campaigning against rural America’s economic survival.


  1. Frank Kloucek 2021-08-06 08:34

    So do we want to stop illegal immigrants at the border or do we want them to work in US Pork Factories? caCan we have it both ways?

  2. grudznick 2021-08-06 09:53

    Mr. Kloucek, we want the ones already in Iowa to work in the pork flavored kolach factories.

  3. Jake 2021-08-06 10:02

    The Republican way of thinking is that “If they can’t vote in our elections, then we welcome them! No matter the color of the skin! See how we are?”!!!

  4. mike from iowa 2021-08-06 10:07

    Unlike magats, Tyson Foods requires all front line workers and corporate flunkies to be vaccinated. Biden is trying to vaccinate all immigrants as they come in. Magats are whining as usual.

  5. Mark Anderson 2021-08-06 10:11

    Well Cory, its easy, the trumpie party is worried about replacement. Even the Newt is in on this one.

  6. bearcreekbat 2021-08-06 11:05

    First off, while there are plenty of “illegal” acts that a person might do, there is no such thing as an “illegal” person. That is simply a demeaning term developed to create feelings of superiority for people who would overwise not value themselves over a particuarly identifiable class of individuals. Such labels are devised to redirect the natural animosity someone might feel toward those exploiting them to people who have done nothing to harm anyone but are relatively defenseless.

    Second, if the use of the term is meant to describe an unlawful act, such as crossing the border without the required paperwork, then such laws are not broken until someone actually does cross the border. Hence people that are stopped from crossing the border have not committed that particular unlawful act.

  7. Porter Lansing 2021-08-06 19:24

    BCB has made this distinction numerous times.
    Thanks for continuing to expose the low self esteem causing the need to feel superior.

  8. Richard Schriever 2021-08-06 20:50

    And the 80-90% of undocumented persons presently in the US who initially entered legally – are not “illegal” either. They are committing a civil offense, not a criminal one, by overstaying their visa(s). Civil offenses are not considered a crime – no “time” is associated with civil offenses. It’s like a parking ticket.

  9. M 2021-08-07 06:55

    Within a 4 block radius of my home, there live a half dozen 20-25 year old men who mow lawns for a living. There are a dozen or so lawn mowing businesses already and there is really not much lawn to mow. In a town of less than 3000, I wonder why these people hang around instead of going to the jobs. But the fact is, they don’t want to work. Living at home is such a great alternative.

    I’ve mentioned the military to these boys, who I think could use the discipline but they don’t want to go to war. So I mention school and they don’t want to have to study. But the fact is, they have no motivation. And they don’t care.

    Without immigrant help in jobs like the pork industry, ag, hospitality, or any jobs our kids won’t do, there will such a shortage of labor, prices will increase, and the Republicans will whine when they can’t have their bacon.

  10. V 2021-08-07 07:15

    Huron has a large population of immigrants from Latin America. There was controversy, the opening of a turkey processing plant, fear of immigrants and then acceptance, embracement, and revival.

    Huron and Beadle County have benefited greatly from having such an open mind and loving heart. There is a population boon (like the 80’s), the schools are full, not many empty houses, and the economy is buzzing from their own hard work. Has nothing to do with the Noemites.

  11. grudznick 2021-08-07 13:03

    Yes. Huron.

  12. Whitless 2021-08-07 14:18

    The current immigration system is too complicated, lengthy and expensive. The U.S. economy is hurt when jobs go unfilled because of a lack of immigrants to fill them.

  13. Porter Lansing 2021-08-07 14:18

    V is accurate.
    Watertown, however went the opposite direction.
    Immigrants are hated and nearly banned from the city limits.
    Thus, the town if floundering like a carp in the July sun.

  14. Arlo Blundt 2021-08-07 14:45

    Well..M has a point about young men whose visible lack of ambition and dependence on family is a good example of “learned helplessness”. They are quite comfortable living on the old homestead with their parents and picking up an occasional menial job for spending money. Frankly, there is a long South Dakota tradition of fostering this lifestyle. Perhaps they will happen upon a hard working woman who will provide for them. Grew up with a few of these guys, my Dad used to call them “Lillies of the Field”.

  15. Mark Anderson 2021-08-07 18:03

    Grudz, it was Huron, not urine, so why the urinary laugh?

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