An analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation projects annual crop production losses of between $5 billion and $9 billion because of farm labor shortages.
For decades, the United States has relied on illegal labor to plant and harvest its crops. About 60% of the nation's farmworkers are undocumented, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and agriculture industry officials.
But workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries aren't crossing the Southwest border in the numbers they used to. American farmers say it's a perfect storm that's causing their labor shortages.
Increased enforcement along the border, better economic conditions in Mexico, a spate of harsh state laws aimed at illegal immigration and the U.S. recession have reduced the ranks of migrant farmworkers.
In California, farmers are reporting labor shortages as high as 40%, according to the Farm Bureau. Some Florida fields are off nearly as much, and the problem reaches through the Midwest. What it means to U.S. consumers is higher costs at the supermarket.
Not only has Congress given up on comprehensive immigration reform, lawmakers also have tabled proposals to change the H-2A visa program to bring in more temporary workers.