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 Growers. 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 participated. 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