Having suffocated crop production, driven up prices and sent food waste spiralling over the past year, British agricultural unions are expressing optimism that the UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, will ease foreign labour restrictions.
Pledges by the new leader to allow a short-term expansion of seasonal workers are the exception to an otherwise hard-line immigration policy that has prevailed since Brexit.
“We will make it easier for farmers and growers to access the workers they need, with a short-term expansion to the seasonal workers scheme, while working with industry to address longer term skills shortages,” she pledged.
Labour shortages have plagued British agriculture since the UK’s exit from the EU. Ward says both real and perceived hurdles drove the UK’s usual pool of seasonal fruit and vegetable pickers to look for work in other EU nations following Brexit.
As part of Truss’ commitment to lowering tax rates and deregulating industry, she has promised her policies would “turbocharge the rural economy by focusing on farmers growing food and cutting the pointless regulation that gets in their way.”
The UK is not alone in its struggle to find farming labour amid tough immigration politics. Farmers across the US are currently pushing for policy reform in the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would make it easier to find pickers by creating a path to citizenship for undocumented agricultural workers and reforming the seasonal farmworker visa program.
The US’ food prices have shot up by 10 percent over the past year, and agricultural players have decried the lack of access to foreign labour.