Friday, November 21, 2014

President Obama's immigration plan does little to help agriculture, farm groups say

Agriculture has the most to gain—or lose—from an immigration bill because many of the 11 million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally work in agriculture because of estimates that about 70 percent of U.S. farmworkers are in the country illegally.

But most farm groups say President Obama's immigration plan that he unveiled on Thursday "will do little to to address the crisis in agriculture that exists from lack of action on immigration," Gary Truitt reports for Hoosier Ag Today. Chuck Conner with the National Council of Farmer Co-ops told reporters, “In practical terms, we do not expect the president’s initiative to help America’s farmers deal with the real labor challenges they face. 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."

In fact, Obama's plan barely affects agriculture and "will likely provide relief to about 250,000 farmworkers, a small fraction of the tens of thousands toiling on agricultural operations across the country," Christoper Doering and Bill Theobald report for USA Today. "Senior administration officials told reporters the new immigration plan will not allow farm workers to apply for protection just because of their job, but they could qualify if they meet other criteria, including having been in the United States longer than five years."

"Agriculture groups said a failure to reform the labor policy would drive more production outside the country, leaving more fruits and vegetables vulnerable to rotting in fields and putting at risk the nation's abundant and safe food supply," Doering and Theobald writes. "Some producers say they are finding it increasingly difficult to hire the labor they need to package meat and tend to livestock or pick strawberries, flowers, tomatoes and other crops."

Farm workers are not even "specifically mentioned in the president's plan, and there are no agriculture-related provisions included in his actions," Sarah Gonzalez reports for Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. Either way, farm groups don't want executive orders from the president; they want new immigration laws. And farm groups are worried that an executive order could deter an immigration bill.

Frank Gasperini, CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, told Gonzalez, “Our chief concern is that the squabbling between Congress and the administration will only intensify and further delay real legislative reforms in the general immigration arena, making meaningful improvements in administration of the H-2 programs that much more difficult.” (Read more) (Washington Post map)

No comments: