President Obama announced last week an executive action to protect up to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation. His plan provides administrative relief and work permits to more than three million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The measure doesn’t address the issue of an agricultural workforce. Growers still need a solution to help them gain access to a stable and secure workforce.
The Agriculture Workforce Coalition, of which the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association is a member along with 70 other ag groups, issue a statement in response to the president’s action:
“In light of the president’s announcement, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition re-emphasizes that the only way to permanently fix agriculture’s labor shortage is through legislation. As we look forward to the start of the new Congress in January, we strongly urge the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the administration, to come together and pass legislation that deals with the reality of the current agricultural workforce and recognizes the need for a new, market-based visa program to meet farmers’ future labor needs.
“Without such legislation, farmers will continue to be unable to find the workers they need to pick crops or care for livestock; more food production will go overseas; local economies across the country will suffer; and the American consumer will pay more for the food they eat.
Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation president, said the order will do little to help American farmers deal with labor challenges. “Our nation loses millions of dollars in fruit and vegetable production every year because farmers cannot find labor to harvest everything they grow. This order will not change that,” he said.
“Farmers and ranchers need a new, flexible visa program that ensures long-term access to an expanding workforce by allowing foreign-born workers to enter the U.S. We also need to permit some current workers, many of whom have helped sustain our operations for years, to remain working in America.
“Congress has a golden opportunity to present a clear vision on immigration in America. We need legislation that addresses border security and enforcement, improves an outdated agricultural visa program and gives experienced agricultural workers a way to gain legal status.”