When my parents married, they were migrant farm workers who traveled from Colorado to Arizona following the crop harvests that provided money for shelter and food. It was back-breaking work but, as my Dad reminded me many times during my life, honest work is honorable work. Dad instilled me with an appreciation and respect for people who labor with their backs and their hands.  I am thankful we live in a country where opportunity and upward mobility – the last five years aside – have been the norm. In the case of my parents, their willingness to sign on for honest, difficult labor translated into a modest home and two college educated children.

Today we have a very different reality. While some Americans still appreciate the value of an honest job, many Americans simply refuse to hire on for a farm-labor job. A combination of factors contribute to this: a social safety net that pays out more in benefits that one can earn by working, an aversion to physical labor, and a misplaced pride that somehow farm work is beneath an American. Look no further for the impact of this reality than the outcry from farmers and the North Carolina Farm Bureau, which made its case for comprehensive immigration reform at the legislature yesterday, including a guest-worker program.

In other findings from the Farm Bureau study, 60 percent of surveyed farmers reported having trouble hiring qualified domestic employees, and one-third said they’d lost income in the past five years due to an insufficient supply of workers.

“We have been encouraged by the recent bipartisan efforts in Congress to make meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform a top priority this session,” says Wooten, who wants state officials to join in the push for change. “Our leaders cannot miss this opportunity to fix the broken immigration system in our country.”