Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says his idea of comprehensive immigration reform would have to secure the border, create opportunities for an earned pathway to citizenship for those already here and focus on specific aspects of the economy such as agriculture, that are dependent on an immigrant workforce. Wilsack says more farmers and growers across the US are beginning to pull back due to the uncertainty of the immigration policy.
Sarah Marie Frey-Talley, owner of Frey Farms Produces says many growers have reduced their operations because they have been unable to secure an adequate harvest workforce:
“We really need to remain unified and get the message out to the public as to how this impacts their lives and food supply. With such a focus on locally grown commodities, and consumers really wanting to support local farms, its important that growers have access to an adequate workforce. What we have seen, on both a small and large scale, is that many produce companies have actually moved outside of the US, for instance into Mexico where they do have an adequate labor supply. We are importing more of our fresh fruits and vegetables now because of the lack of access to an adequate work force.”
Frey-Talley says immigration reform would allow current ag workers to transition to the blue card program and also increase the number of visas for guest workers into the US:
“Given a larger workforce to pull from, we could expand our acres in several states and grow more fruits and vegetables, thus expanding our business and hiring more domestic workers. If we are able to produce more, that means we are creating jobs that the domestic workforce really looks for.”
Frey-Talley says ultimately a variety of job opportunities would become available.