In our continuing series from the candidates for North Carolina Ag Commissioner, incumbent Steve Troxler addresses the need for reform for immigrant labor issues for the state:
“Immigration is a national issue, there is no question about that. But we have to have a workable, affordable and efficient guest worker program if we are going to continue to raise specialty crops in North Carolina and across the nation because they are labor intensive. We have to have that work force available.
I am the president of the National Association of the Departments of Agriculture and we just had a national meeting where we hammered out and agreement that was 18 months in the making. It is a resolution to send to congress about what we believe we are going to need in a guest worker program. We in agriculture want a legal work force and a work force we can depend on. We believe there is a way to get to that end if congress will act. But its another one of the national issues that we can advocate for and push for but it will take congressional action to get to that point.
We in North Carolina are fortunate to have the largest legal guest worker program, H2A program, in the nation. Part of labor is through H2A, but having been an H2A user myself, I know that this program needs a lot of reform. Its very expensive and cumbersome to use and doesn’t always work in the way that it needs to work. So we need guest worker reform in H2A and we need a way to make sure that we ensure that adequate work force is there to pick these fresh fruits and vegetables, if not then we are going to become dependent on foreign countries for these items and I feel much more confident that we can ensure a safe food supply here in the United States by working with our agricultural people and our agribusiness people than I would be if we import all of these products from around the world.
Rhonda Garrison: Do you have any plans specifically on how to ensure the labor force for North Carolina?
I think the specific thing that we agree on nationally is that we need a program where these workers can be screened and come into the US on a temporary basis to do this type of work. We want to ensure that American citizens that want to work in agriculture have every opportunity to do that. We also want to look at a way to bring workers that are here now into a guest worker program, not with amnesty, but with the ability to enter the program to work in this program and then to apply for US citizenship from their home country.”
Next week we’ll hear from the candidates for North Carolina Ag Commissioner on the farm bill.
For more of Commissioner Troxler’s comments, as well as those of his opponent, Walter Smith, click here