A new study shows a reduction in the foreign-born workforce, prompted by a change in immigration policy, would not be offset by native-born workers and permanent residents. Iowa State University economists say a tighter supply of foreign-born workers would reduce overall demand for workers. That's because as production costs increase, agricultural output would decrease as farmers abandon labor-intensive operations.

Commissioned by the National Pork Producers Council, the study shows the result would be a 3.4 to 5.5 percent decrease in the total number of farm workers. NPPC says skilled and unskilled foreign workers “have been crucial to maintaining and growing the workforce” needed for the pork industry, adding that if the current labor shortage continues, or worsens, the nation could see “animal health and well-being suffer.”

NPPC supports legislation that would create a new visa that allows non-seasonal foreign agricultural workers to remain in the United States for up to three years while deferring a portion of their pay as incentive for periodic “touchbacks” to their country.