Yesterday we began our visit with President and CEO of the South Carolina Farm Bureau, David Winkles on the many issues of importance and concern to South Carolina’s farmers. Winkles says that immigration reform is certainly at the top of the list along with 2012 farm bill, over regulation by the EPA and tax issues :
“You know I don’t see any positive movements in the near future. It is one that is high on our list of priorities and one that I certainly wouldn’t want to leave out of the top two or three issues out there. It is a national issue, and we really need to get federal folks to deal with it on a national level. Now, we have done some talking about a guest worker program on a state level, and that might be a solution if we can convince the members of the General Assembly.
Again, it’s a federal issue, the H2-A program works, but very poorly. There are some any restrictions within the H2-A program it makes it very difficult for people who only need one or two people to use that type of program.”
While the general focus has been on the need for migrant farm workers, Winkles says that it’s not only the agricultural economy that’s suffering under the current immigration:
“We really need some solutions. As Farm Bureau we welcome the opportunity to work through some solutions without creating an amnesty situation. But, we really look forward to trying to find some solutions with folks who are willing to find some solutions.
It is a huge problem, we know the….I believe the number was $316 million of product left to rot in Georgia last year , and it's spilling over into other parts of the economy as well. Noticed an article the other day where a Mercedes official was picked up in Alabama under Alabama’s immigration laws, so it’s really spilling over to other parts of the economy, as well.”
Winkles explains that migrant farm workers are an integral part of getting food from the farm to the table:
“Within agriculture there are jobs to do, that there are no domestic workers willing to do. And we need to be able to meet the needs for agriculture to provide the food for our folks here in the US.”
David Winkles, President and CEO of the South Carolina Farm Bureau