“And that may be part of our problem, because a lot of stories (quoted) lawyers and critics saying, ‘We have to know who it is.’ They were not able to deal with ‘we don’t know’ as an answer. But that may be the honest answer. We may have to work with the feds and the states to live with some degree of uncertainty. We’ve got a challenge.”
“We’re letting plaintiffs’ attorneys run public perception, there’s no question about it,” Stenzel said.
Bruce Knobeloch, senior vice president of business development for Azzule Systems, said the food safety and immigration issues are linked by the public’s perception, or lack of perception, of agriculture.
“There are 300 million people in the U.S.,” Knobeloch said. “There might be 2 million who have a clue about agriculture. Somehow our industry has to figure out a way. Maybe it’s social media or bringing in some expertise to drive that message to the public so they have a better understanding of fresh produce, how it’s grown and handled. We can do outreach and small things, but we have to think bold and think impact.”
While Congress is on recess in August, Stenzel told Salinas Valley grower-shippers, agriculture is on the cusp of victory or defeat on immigration legislation.
With some California congressmen already backing bills, he suggested members contact opponents such as House majority whip Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican.
“Tell him how important immigration reform is,” Stenzel said. “If he started getting calls from Salinas, maybe he’d take note.” United Fresh is encouraging members and businesses in other industries to raise the topic as well at Republican congressmen’s town halls.
Chances of success are 50%, Stenzel said. Agriculture has already supported the Senate’s broad bill. The House, Stenzel said, could pass separate bills on border security, guest workers and the status of children of migrant laborers. If enough are passed, there could be a conference committee compromise between House and Senate.
“We started out six months ago telling House members, ‘Here’s what we want, this is what the content should be in the bill,’” he said. “I don’t even say that anymore. I say, ‘Pass anything you damn well please. Pass a bill.’ Because if they don’t pass anything, we’ll never have a chance to get to a final comprehensive immigration bill. Keep up the pressure.”