What about farm workers coming to the United States through aJ-1, or student, visa?

“Generally, that works well only for relatively small growers – like some organic growers,” said Gasperini. “If you need someone to pick crops for 10 hours, that’s not likely to appeal to someone on an educational visa. They’ll sign up for a small organic farm with lots of mixed crops with (the aim of taking the gained knowledge) back home. That’s worked out well for some of those U.S. producers – but not for bigger operations. 

“But producers are being forced to consider all kinds of farm labor alternatives, including convicts. And using convicts can be problematic because some large grocery chains have prohibitions against using prison labor.”

Strain says the pressures facing businesses that rely on migrant labor mustn’t be ignored.  “You know, everyone talks about ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ workers. Well, if you make it so hard to get legal migrant worker, guess what the consequences are? Everyone wants to hire legal workers but what’s the choice (if they’re shut out)?”