Finally! Members of the Senate have moved immigration reform off the backburner. American Farm Bureau Labor Specialist Kristi Boswell explains why that’s so important for U.S. agriculture in this story from AFBF’s Johnna Miller.
Miller: Bipartisan support isn’t something you see a lot of on Capitol Hill these days. So senators from both sides of the aisle working together to reform the nation’s immigration laws is a really big deal, according to American Farm Bureau Labor Specialist Kristi Boswell.
Boswell: The fact that the Senate has taken the initiative on this, the fact that it’s a bipartisan effort is so exciting and such a step in the right direction. We’re encouraged by the progress and hope that the energy remains high so it develops into progress.
Miller: Why is it such a big deal to the nation’s largest farm and ranch organization? Because agriculture labor issues are one of the American Farm Bureau’s biggest concerns right now and that ties right into immigration.
Boswell: For agriculture, this is a labor issue. We have a large percentage of our current labor force that’s falsely documented. We also rely on a broken H2A visa program that allows us to bring in guestworkers. That program has become nearly impossible to maneuver.
Miller: And that has an enormous impact on the nation’s food supply, because the simple truth is that there aren’t enough American workers willing to do all the work necessary to get food on grocery shelves.
Boswell: We are dealing with hard work that is out in the elements, in the heat, in the wind. We also are dealing with a perishable crop and one or two days can mean a ripe strawberry versus a rotten strawberry and we need to make sure we can access a legal workforce to accommodate agriculture’s needs. In the H2A program there is case after case of delays, of people not getting their workforce on time and the 10 day difference is very detrimental to agriculture and the stability of those crops.
Miller: Boswell says the change suggested by the bipartisan senate group takes those agriculture concerns into account. For farmers and ranchers, that’s a big step in the right direction. Johnna Miller, Washington.