YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - The Agriculture industry brings in billions of dollars to the Yuma and Imperial Valley economies, but it’s hard work.
Their fields being on the U.S./ Mexico border makes this possible but it also brings its own unique challenges.
Both the Imperial Valley and Yuma County have mild winters as well as a hot, dry climate creating the perfect place for growing crops 365 days a year.
Imperial Valley agriculture brings over $4,000,000,000 into the community and Yuma over $3,000,000,000.
And a big factor driving that money is the strong workforce commuting daily from Mexico.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have AG in the vegetable world here in Yuma. We couldn’t do what we’re doing without the workers crossing the border every day, so I know there’s a lot of people who look down on those people. They are just good hardworking people trying to make a living,” said Matt McGuire, JV Smith Companies Chief Agricultural Officer.
Matt McGuire says 75% of field workers cross the border every day to get to work.
“They gotta get up at 3 in the morning, be at the border by 4, commute to the fields about an hour, go to work, then they have that reverse going home,” said McGuire.
However, the proximity of the border does come with challenges for growers, as recently migrants are illegally crossing into the united states right next to their fields.
“The border patrol is doing a great job keeping them right there at the border, but it can be a problem. But having such a high turnover every day, it’s a constant morning meeting, here is the food safety regulations, here’s what you can and can’t do every day,” said McGuire.
Crossing at the gaps by the Morelos Dam, and with the record numbers of migrants, local border patrol is stretched thin, and can’t be there 24-7.
Meaning some migrants begin trying to find their way on their own, which Coastline Family Farms owner Larry Cox says has hurt their crops.
“And they got to the point where they started walking across fields, not the road or not the headland to keep from being detected and you go out and here’s a big swath across a field of Alfalfa our Bermuda grass and there’s a track of 200 people that have come through,” said Cox.
A major threat to their businesses, potentially contaminating some of the produce.
As growers go to great lengths to ensure food safety.
“If it’s your harvesters you’ve gotta have hygiene and gloves and hairnets and the whole nine yards, so if you’ve got somebody that’s out there in an area that’s supposed to be harvested that day or within a couple of days, that is a food safety violation, said Cox.
Both growers say they are working hard to put up fencing and working alongside border patrol to keep the issue under control.
All in an effort to keep reaping the benefits of farming at the border.