A delegation of state agricultural leaders, farmworker advocates, and employer representatives met last Friday with U.S. secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack to discuss the farm labor crisis and the outlook for comprehensive immigration reform.
The bipartisan delegation, which included the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR) and the United Farm Workers (UFW), met with Vilsack at the mid-year meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in Washington, D.C.
NASDA president and Delaware agriculture secretary Ed Kee presented examples of why the current farm labor crisis and immigration is a serious issue affecting the industry. He described the tough choices some growers have to make in order to stay in business.
“Agriculture utterly depends on a foreign-born workforce,” said Craig Regelbrugge, co-chair of ACIR, describing the worsening situation facing growers who need labor. “Even in this recession, few Americans are seeking jobs on the farm. As our nation has become more urban and better educated, we’ve lost the culture of agriculture.”
UFW president Arturo S. Rodriguez described how the status quo is negatively affecting growers and farmworkers, and how both sides came together to negotiate AgJOBS. “Either Congress acts to bring a solution, or we will continue to see our food production move to other countries,” Rodriguez said. “The United States depends on these farms and farmworkers for food. AgJOBS secures America’s food supply and is the most practical and equitable solution in addressing grower concerns about labor shortages.”
In his message, Vilsack emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation, as well as the need for strong, grassroots support.
Source: ACIR press release