Courtesy USDAAgriculture Secretary Tom VilsackAlready suffering from the drought, California growers will lose even more if the House of Representatives doesn’t take up immigration reform this year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
He was joined in a May 5 teleconference pushing for immigration reform by Arturo Rodriquez, president of the United Farm Workers Union and Manuel Canhu, president of the Nisei Farmers League. Rodriquez and Canhu called out Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, representing the San Joaquin Valley, on his lack of support so far for immigration reform. McCarthy is majority whip for the House GOP, the third ranking Republican in the House, and is responsible for gathering support within the party for legislation that will be voted on.
Vilsack said there are more than 81,000 farms in California, helping make it the No. 1 agricultural state in the country. He said 73% of workers on California farmers are not citizens of the U.S., and immigration reform would provide a reliable workforce for agriculture and help strengthen the state’s agriculture economy.
The lack of comprehensive immigration reform has created uncertainty and instability in American agriculture, he said. The Senate immigration bill passed last year would increase California farm income by $500 million, Vilsack said.
“The reality is that immigration is not just good for the state of Californian and American agriculture, it is the right thing to do for the country,” he said.
Immigration reform would create job growth, boost Social Security revenue and reduce the national deficit, he said, calling on House leaders to “get something passed” so the issues can be put to rest after differences between the House and Senate bills are resolved.
“By not having comprehensive immigration reform, it really puts farm workers and farms at a significant disadvantage,” he said.
Vilsack said some California farms don’t have enough labor to harvest their crops.
Rodriquez said that no industry would benefit more from comprehensive immigration reform than agriculture. Last year, he said farm workers and agricultural employers came together to create the agricultural labor provisions of the Senate bill S. 744..
The labor leader said the UFW believes there are enough votes to pass immigration reform in the House.. “A majority of the House of Representatives said they are prepared to vote for comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a road map to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” he said.