Zippy Duvall: Labor is Biggest Limiting Factor for American Agriculture


By Rhonda Brooks, AgWeb 

May 11, 2022


Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), weighed in on a number of President Joe Biden’s proposed policy shifts which were announced earlier today by the White House.


“We understand there's going to be a need for more food because of what's going on around the world, and we very much appreciate the administration looking for ways to help us increase production,” Duvall said during a conversation on AgriTalk with Host Chip Flory on Tuesday.


Biden’s three-part plan would include:


1.    Doubling the funding for domestic fertilizer production to $500 million;

2.    Providing greater access to farm management tools for plant and soil needs;

3.    Increasing the number of counties eligible for double cropping insurance by up to 681 additional counties. That would bring the total number of counties where double-cropping qualifies for crop insurance to 1,935.


While Duvall thanked the Biden administration for trying to address would-be food shortages, he questions whether more double-crop acres is even a viable option for farmers. Concerns he cites include the later than average 2022 planting season and whether adequate soybean seed and other inputs would be available in those additional counties.


“You’ve got to look at the cost of production, whether we will be able to get enough money out of that second crop to meet the cost of producing it,” he says.


Observations On Immigration Reform And Work Permits


What could potentially put more money in farmers’ pockets is the ability to employ more labor.


Specifically, Duvall would like to see legislation to modernize the current guest worker program which would allow year-round, documented workers who could supply U.S. agriculture with manpower.


“Labor is the biggest limiting factor that American agriculture has,” he contends. “If (the U.S. government) wants us to be more productive, give us the workers to be productive with.”


Duvall told Flory he isn’t sure Congress has what it takes to do immigration reform.


“It surely doesn't look like it, but we need to make sure that we secure that border,” he says.


He adds that the situation along the border between the U.S. and Mexico is concerning for the communities and residents located there.


“I've been to the border, and it is a mess,” he says. “Our farmers and ranchers have suffered terribly down there and think the federal government has abandoned them. They're even fearful for their lives in a lot of cases.”


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more, including audio [10:39 min.]