WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Contributing to the problem of empty grocery store shelves across the country is “panic shopping” but the coronavirus pandemic could also have a very real impact on the nation’s food supply chain. 

Vice President Mike Pence toured a Walmart distribution center in Virginia this week and offered words of encouragement to workers. 

“Thank you for doing a great job—for keeping food on the table for the American people,” he said. 

Pence wants to reassure Americans empty grocery store shelves will be restocked. 

“We’re grateful to our farmers,” Pence said. 

North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer said the foundation of our food supply is reliable and “produces more than enough food for the American consumer.” 

But there are questions about the link between the farmer and the distributor—the farm workers who pick the crops. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, there was an ongoing farm worker shortage and crops were literally rotting in the fields. 

Many farm workers are immigrants on temporary work visas and some are undocumented. The Trump administration’s immigration policies have created a shortage of workers. 

“They’ve created a lot of fear,” said Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA). 

Lawmakers in Congress have been working on legislation to increase the number of legal migrant workers. Carbajal said farm workers are now worried about he coronavirus, leading to his decision to introduce a new bill. 

“To make sure we are doing everything possible to provide the personal protective equipment and the support that these farm workers need,” he said. 

The State Department also announced it will increase the number of farm workers’ temporary work visas to help keep the food flowing to local grocery stores. 

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