In our continuing series featuring the candidates for North Carolina Ag Commissioner, today, democratic contender, Walter Smith speaks on the immigrant labor situation.
Since the tobacco buyout, North Carolina’s crops have become more diverse, and have branched into areas that are labor intensive in nature. While machine harvesting is sometimes an option, many times it is not. Walter Smith speaks on the lack of immigrant labor reform and possible solutions:
"This is a problem that will continue to get worse in the future. Number one we must ensure that our legislature does not pass bills like the one recently passed in Georgia. The premise behind it was to eliminate all illegal immigrants. It did that to a good degree. But what it also did was it had the effect of intimidation on legal immigrants, they were in fact afraid to come into Georgia. That affected the number of workers that were available in Georgia.
I will also advocate a more reasonable approach to immigration laws in North Carolina and urge the legislators to seek input from the agricultural industry, something that was not done when Georgia passed their laws.
Immigration reform is a very complex issue and the ‘send them home’ mentality that some states and some legislatures have adopted will seriously damage agriculture in North Carolina because we have no other reliable and sufficient source of farm workers. We employ an estimated 150,000 apicultural workers in North Carolina, most of those are Hispanic. We are one of the largest users of migrant labor in the nation.”
Tomorrow, we’ll hear from incumbent republican Steve Troxler on immigrant labor regulations and reform on Today’s Topic.
For more comments from both candidates for North Carolina Ag Commissioner click here.