Farmers to Capitol Hill: Ag Needs Action on Immigration Reform Now

Growers, Producers Ask for Access to Legal & Stable Workforce

May 15, 2007, 01:00 ET from Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform

    WASHINGTON, May 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Congress revisits the
 complex issue of immigration reform, American farmers, growers, producers
 and nurserymen gathered on Capitol Hill to remind lawmakers that
 agriculture needs access to a legal and stable workforce. Their message is
 simple: the lack of a workable agricultural labor program, coupled with
 immigration enforcement, constitutes an absolute threat to the survival of
 the American farm.
     These growers and producers came off the farm - at a critical time in
 the growing season for many of them - to make sure Congress understands the
 severity of the situation. Together with Senators Feinstein [D-CA] and
 Craig [R-ID], these members of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration
 Reform [ACIR] called on Congress to finally solve the labor crisis in
 agriculture by enacting the provisions of AgJOBS [S340, HR371] whether
 alone or as part of a broader, more comprehensive bill.
     "Agriculture needs Congress to act on immigration reform now," said
 Maureen Torrey, an 11th generation farmer from Elba, New York. "We need
 access to a reliable and affordable guest worker program and an opportunity
 for trained, experienced, and otherwise law-abiding farm workers to have
 the chance to continue working and to earn the right to become permanent
 legal residents of the U.S." Torrey testified on this issue before the
 House Small Business Committee last week.
     The federal H-2A guest worker program "is cumbersome, bureaucratic and
 offers no flexibility," said Phil Glaize, an apple grower in Virginia. "You
 must designate the arrival and departure date of your workers long before
 you know when you might actually need them. Harvesting fruit is not a
 precise science; without being able to change the scheduled workers,
 growers can easily end up with apples needing to be harvested when the
 workers are not available."
     The coalition supports overhauling the H-2A temporary and seasonal
 alien agricultural worker program and allowing trained and trusted farm
 workers a chance to earn legal status, subject to strict conditions. A
 sensible "earned adjustment of status" program for agriculture would reward
 hard work and commitment, true American values.
     These provisions have a broader effect on the economy than just farm or
 nursery jobs. Studies have shown farming creates a job 'multiplier effect'.
 Each farmworker job in America supports three to four jobs in the local
 economy. If the American farm doesn't survive, neither will millions of
 jobs in packaging, processing, equipment, supplies and services, insurance
 and lending.
     Craig Regelbrugge, Co-Chair of Agriculture Coalition for Immigration
 Reform said, "These business leaders came to D.C. because they can't wait
 any longer for Congress to act on provisions for agriculture. It's an
 important time in the growing season. The fact they are here demonstrates
 how dire the Ag labor situation really is."
     "The last best chance for immigration reform in the foreseeable future
 is upon us. If Congress does not move on this critical issue this country
 will have lost its best opportunity to fix our broken immigration policy
 for at least several years," said Tom Nassif, President and CEO of Western
     Members of the United Fresh Produce Association, National Council of
 Agricultural Employers, American Nursery & Landscape Association, U.S.
 Apple Association, Western Growers, and dozens of other groups
     ABOUT: The Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR) is the
 broad national coalition representing over 300 national, regional, and
 state organizations whose members produce fruit and vegetables, dairy,
 nursery and greenhouse crops, poultry, livestock, and Christmas trees.

SOURCE Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform