Former Ag Secretary John Block –
Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.
And now for today’s commentary—
My issue this week is immigration, but first I want to pay respect to Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister for 11 years, who passed away this week. The “Iron Lady” joined with President Reagan in transforming governments in the U.S., the U.K., and the Soviet Union. Communism was buried. Socialism was turned back in the U.S. and Europe.
I remember like yesterday a dinner at the British Embassy where I talked with Margaret Thatcher. The subject was agriculture programs and trade. She was searching for a way to mutually cut subsidies and expand trade. She was strong, direct, and engaged in all the issues of the day. We thank her for her leadership.
Speaking of leadership, on the important subject of immigration, there is hope that the bipartisan “gang of eight” will be able to piece together a saleable immigration bill.
Chuck Conner is President of the National Council of Farm Cooperatives and Chair of the ag industry’s “Workforce Coalition.” He spoke to our Ag Roundtable luncheon this week. He served as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for President Bush and is deeply involved in the effort to get Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. Here are some of his thoughts.
“The H2A 74000 Guest Worker Program that farmers rely on now is broken. Throw it out and start over.” Farmers desperately need labor to do the work. Who will harvest the strawberries or the apples? Who will milk the cows or butcher the pigs? It is estimated that 60% of our farm workers are illegal (undocumented). Let’s face it. We must either import labor or import our food. This is a problem that must be solved. The “gang of eight,” along with others, includes Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
I am convinced that this bipartisan group is serious. They are close to an agreement. If there is one sticking point, it is over wages and number of visas for farm workers. Chuck Conner said the question of border security and ag needs are separate.
I have discussed the immigration issue before on my commentaries. I am hopeful that the stars are aligned and a deal can be reached. If not – the consequences will be grim.
In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to www.johnblockreports.com.
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.