NCPR: Report: immigrant deportations could devastate North Country farm economy

by David Sommerstein (Reporter/Asst. News Director) , in Canton, NY

One of the state’s top agricultural lenders is warning President Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants could cost New York’s economy billions of dollars.

A report from Farm Credit East estimates 1,080 farms in New York could go out of business or significantly reduce operations if federal agents continue to step up deportations of farm workers in the country illegally.

Immigration police have arrested hundreds of people in Upstate New York since Donald Trump became president, according to federal figures. Many were working on farms illegally. That’s sending a chill through farmer and farmworker communities.

“Word gets out,” says Tom Cosgrove, spokesman with Farm Credit East, “and so I think it creates a little bit of a nervousness out there in terms of what might happen.” Farm Credit East is a farm lending cooperative with about 9,000 members in New York State.

It’s well known agriculture relies heavily on mostly Latino workers in the country illegally – more than half of all farm workers, according to many estimates. Farm Credit East wanted to get a handle on what would happen if they were rounded up and deported from Upstate New York’s farms.

Deportations could devastate more than a thousand farms in New York

“Farmworkers have worked with families for generations. They’re close with them. So there’s that personal aspect that shouldn’t be discounted, but we were really trying to look at it to see, ok, let’s see if we can get our arms around, what would the economic impact be if something like this happened?”

Cosgrove says the most vulnerable farms to immigration raids are the very large ones with labor intensive crops, like dairy, fruit and vegetable production, greenhouses and nurseries.

The report, which is based on state farm census figures, estimates widespread deportations could cost more than 21,000 farm jobs statewide, and another 23,000 non-farm jobs related to agriculture. That could ripple through the economy to the tune of a $8.5 billion loss, says Cosgrove. “And so that’s a high degree of economic activity that’s at risk, and so this is one of the potential consequences of these policies.”

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