Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Friday 01/11/13

Ag Groups Form Coalition to Push Immigration Reform

Laying down their marker for immigration reform, major farm groups on Friday announced the formation of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition to help steer Congress toward legislation to ensure there is a stable pool of farm workers.

The groups stated the Agriculture Workforce Coalition would provide a unified voice for agriculture to push for new immigration policies.

"We have an unprecedented opportunity now that Democrats and Republicans are having a serious conversation about the critical need for immigration reform—an opportunity that cannot be wasted," said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. "Agricultural employers have come together as never before in lock-step and agreement about a workable proposal that will serve the needs of farmers, workers and the American people. The time for immigration reform is now."

As the coalition stated in a news release, existing programs such as H2A have proven unworkable. H2A provides roughly 65,000 temporary worker permits for farms annually. Estimates from various groups project agricultural businesses may employ as many as 500,000 illegal aliens on farms and related businesses across the country.

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition "is putting forward a framework that includes both an earned adjustment in status for current experienced farm workers and a program to ensure that producers continue to have access to a workforce as current agricultural employees move on to other jobs. A key to the framework will be ensuring that it meets the needs of all of agriculture—both those employers with seasonal labor needs and those who provide year-round employment opportunities."

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said "This coalition framework proposal will help American agriculture achieve a market-based, flexible agricultural worker program that makes sense for everyone. It's important for workers, farmers and especially consumers that we have a legal, stable workforce in place. It's time to move the discussion forward and find a solution. It's time to meet agriculture's labor crisis head on."

Along with Farm Bureau and Western Growers, other members of the coalition listed in a news release Friday included: American Nursery & Landscape Association, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, National Council of Agricultural Employers, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, USA Farmers, U.S. Apple Association, United Fresh Produce Association and Western United Dairymen. The group also is partnering with the more long-standing group that has lobbied on behalf of agriculture for immigration reform, the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform.

Additional information on the coalition can be found on its website: www.agworkforcecoalition.org.

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Posted at 4:52PM CST 01/11/13 by Chris Clayton
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