North Carolina Farm Bureau has long been an advocate for agriculture both on Jones Street and in Washington. Peter Daniel, Assistant to the President of NCFB says that a guest worker program is high on their list of priorities this year:
Daniel: Well, we are deeply concerned about the mood of the country and immigration reform and that Congress is in a gridlock on how to address the guest workers in this nation, and those that the industry and business and farming of agriculture need to produce their crop and to feed this hungry nation. Congress is in a gridlock over finding the proper solution that allows business to expand and grow. And we need Congress to solve the guest worker problem.
SFN: Well, of course our neighbor to the south, South Carolina, is in the process of implementing a very stringent immigration regulation which I know that we're keeping a very close eye on.
Daniel: Our North Carolina legislature passed an e-verify law last summer, and just the rumor of e-verify caused a guest worker shortage in our state, and cost many farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income.
SFN: Well… that's because they can't get their crops out of the ground. We've had these arguments over and over again, these people are doing jobs that Americans don't necessarily want…
Daniel: Back in the height of the Great Ression we had counties with 20 percent unemployment, we still had to have guest workers come in to harvest the crops — even with 20 percent unemployment — because the citizens did not want to do the work.
SFN: Now, there are some aspects of the e-verify program that just really does not have agriculture at heart.
Daniel: Well, it's a voluntary, Federal program run by Homeland Security. It was never set up for mass access by small business. If you have a large business, and you have HR department, and you have people trained in computer technology, it runs fairly smoothly. But, if you're a farmer and you need to hire people from the back of your pick-up truck, it is impossible to use. The error rate is significant on name identification and when you have a crop that is ready to be harvested, you do not need a huge hurdle in hiring employees to harvest your produce.
Assistant to the NC Farm Bureau President, Peter Daniel