The Agriculture Workforce Coalition is calling the Senate’s approval of comprehensive immigration reform a landmark achievement in agriculture’s effort to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers have access to a legal, skilled and stable workforce. AWC has worked with the United Farm Workers union over the past six months to develop an agricultural immigration proposal that is reflected in the bill approved by the Senate. According to the Agriculture Workforce Coalition – the provisions contained in the legislation address the status of agriculture’s current skilled and experienced workers and would institute a new, market-based visa program to fix this issue once and for all going forward. In the coming weeks – AWC will work with members of the House as the chamber begins to develop its own immigration reform proposals. The group encourages House members to ensure any legislation contains meaningful reform to meet agriculture’s current and future labor needs.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman says the Senate passed a balanced immigration reform bill that includes a fair and workable farm labor provision. He says a comprehensive agricultural labor plan that works for all sectors of agriculture and across all regions of the nation is long overdue. Stallman notes America’s farmers and ranchers depend on the workers who show up every day to tend crops and raise livestock. The Senate-passed bill – he says – will help ensure an adequate supply of farm labor. In addition – he says it provides increased surveillance of high-risk areas along our borders. Stallman says one of the best ways to improve border security is to create a legal, workable way for farm workers to enter the country. This legislation – according to Stallman – is the first step in reforming our broken immigration system and ensuring agriculture has access to a stable and legal workforce. He says Farm Bureau will work with members of the U.S. House to pass responsible immigration reform legislation that includes an earned adjustment for experienced undocumented agricultural workers and a new, flexible guest worker program. Stallman says it’s critical for both chambers to pass legislation that can be reconciled in conference and signed into law.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says the Senate’s immigration reform measure includes important provisions that will bring greater stability to the farm workforce and provide a practical, legal means for immigrants to work in agriculture. He says it allows for peace of mind for all parties in agriculture to know that a more easy-to-use and effective system will be enacted. Johnson says he’ll continue to work with the House of Representatives to pass immigration legislation that achieves many of these same ends.
Border security and immigration have been a top priority for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association this year. NCBA President Scott George says this important issue affects all Americans – but especially rural Americans and NCBA members who live and ranch along the nation’s borders. He says the action taken by the Senate is a step in the right direction and NCBA looks forward to engaging with members of the House in ensuring the priorities of cattlemen and women are met in final legislation. George says a strong year-round workforce is paramount to the success of the cattle industry. He says NCBA recognizes the first step in ensuring the success of that workforce is securing and maintaining the borders. He says the conversations taking place on Capitol Hill right now are keeping those issues front and center and NCBA appreciates those efforts.
United Fresh CEO Tom Stenzel says the Senate seized the opportunity to enact immigration reform that is desperately needed in the fresh produce industry and many other agricultural sectors. He says the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain and boost the economy. Stenzel cites the efforts of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers – groups United Fresh worked with to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers. As the House prepares to take up immigration reform – United Fresh will continue to cooperate with AWC and other stakeholders to advocate for ag labor provisions as part of any broader reform package to ensure a stable workforce for the fresh produce industry.
The strong bipartisan vote in the Senate to fix the country’s broken immigration system is good news for farmers and ranchers – according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The Senate plan would ensure the stable ag workforce U.S. producers need to remain competitive with other nations and maintain America’s abundant, affordable food supply – Vilsack says. For millions of farm workers who live in the shadows – he says it will provide an appropriate opportunity to earn legal status by contributing to America’s agricultural economy. In addition to being a strongly pro-agriculture bill – Vilsack says the Senate plan would grow the U.S. economy, strengthen the Social Security system and reduce the nation’s deficit. He says the House must continue the momentum toward passage of a comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible.
Illinois Farm Bureau
The following is a statement from Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson regarding the Senate’s passage of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act.
“After months of hard work and continued conversations with our legislators, we are pleased so see the passage of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Illinois has a rich and diverse agriculture industry that, in many cases, depends on migrant labor. This legislation not only reforms a flawed system, but helps address agricultural workforce shortages, provides an incentive to keep guest workers in agricultural jobs, and creates a more stable workforce for farmers in Illinois and across the country.
“We appreciate the hard work and support of both Sen. Durbin and Sen. Kirk on this important legislation. With the passage of this bill, the Senate has sent a strong message to members of the House of Representatives to pass similar legislation, securing the future of our agriculture workforce and a stable food supply.”