Speech at WPPC stresses need for unity - The Packer

Speech at WPPC stresses need for unity

10/05/2011 02:26:00 PM
Chris Koger

Tom KarstCraig Regelbrugge (left), vice president for government relations and research, American Nursery and Landscape Association, talks with Paul Schlegel, director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation after an Oct. 4 session at United Fresh's Washington Public Policy Conference.WASHINGTON, D.C. — The stakes are rising and the tempers are flaring in the immigration debate.

With the entire agricultural community seeking to avoid a mandatory E-Verify law without a suitable guest worker program for agriculture, Paul Schlegel, director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C., said Farm Bureau’s economists have estimated the U.S. could lose from $5 billion to $9 billion in agricultural production and $3 billion in net farm income if growers are left without a sufficient legal workforce.

Schlegel spoke at the Oct. 4 session on the industry’s response to the threat of mandatory E-Verify legislation in the House of Representatives. The House Judiciary Committee approved mandatory E-Verify legislation but the outlook for when the bill will be considered by the full House — and the potential for a farm guest worker amendment to be attached to it — are uncertain.

Schlegel said some members of Congress are indifferent to the losses faced by growers.

“We are going to have to make a case that for agriculture to survive, at the end of the day we have to have a program that works for everybody.”

Craig Regelbrugge, vice president for government relations and research for the American Nursery and Landscape Association and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform, said that a reformed H-2A program alone cannot bridge the gap between the workforce that is not legally authorized and what is needed.

Regelbrugge said the goal is to get the best ag framework in the House to attach to the E-Verify bill, though the result may not provide any solution for existing illegal workers.

Still, he said Congressional inaction on mandatory E-verify legislation isn’t a solution either. “Waiting never leads to an environment where it is better,” he said.

“If nothing happens, we are going to see continued I-9 audits, we will see continued no match letters and the liability associated with them, and likely we will see another round of states joining the Arizona club (immigration enforcement) and with the devastation that happens when that unfolds,” he said. What’s more, he said any improvement in the economy will result in a worsening labor shortages for agriculture.

“We’ve got to figure out how to build a broader base of people who care about food,” Regelbrugge said.

Failing that, he said that America will lose strength as a producer. “The future will be off shore (production), it will be loss of on farm and off farm jobs, it will be lost economic value that is sustaining communities,” he said.

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Steve Scaroni    
Salinas CA  |  October, 06, 2011 at 09:32 AM

We have NO margin at this point of the war for Association egos and "Im not gonna play unless i get the credit" and different farm areas / groups thinking E-verify offers some kind of competitive advantage. over other areas. No matter how you posture it history is clear National Farm Bureau has a reputation for BREAK RANKS with the rest of the AG community including Calif. Farm Bureau at the 11th hour. SS

Mike Angelo    
Santa Paula  |  October, 06, 2011 at 10:19 AM

Why not exclude ag. workers from e-varify. We have exculded ag workers from many employee related laws.

Teresa Budd    
Plant City, Fl  |  October, 06, 2011 at 12:35 PM

Why does it have to be so complicated. Give these hard working immigrants a simple work visa and a tax ID # to be renewed yearly or so, it shouldn't take over 10 years to get this done. Those that are already here, if the powers that be insist they pay a fine for being here, make the fine reasonable. Perhaps the Employers that will hire them can sponser them some how. This can be worked out if egos get out of the way and logic and common sense take control. This needs to be done immediately before this country depends on foreign countries to supply our food source. Cannot the powers that be see that if we cannot feed everyone in our own country we will be held hostage to the countries that do feed us.

Colorado  |  October, 06, 2011 at 04:50 PM

Mike A. And we should just continue rewarding illegal aliens with visas. Then why not just do away with our borders completely, if we are going to reward illegal aliens every few years.

Barbara G.    
Washington state  |  October, 06, 2011 at 07:35 PM

I have wondered just why the US farmers refuse to modernize and mechanize their farms There is on the market all kinds of harvesters that can pick any kind of vegetable that can be grown in the US. The farmers in Europe have had this equipment for years. The reason the US farmers don't own it is because they would rather hire the illegal migrants. There is a blue berry picking machine that goes right down the rows skimming off the berries using only three workers. all they do is put boxes under the hopper to catch the berrries. These people need to get rid of the 1950,s mindset.

Va.  |  October, 07, 2011 at 11:11 AM

OK.... Barbara G. Understand we are not speaking of processing vegetables, but produce aisle quality products. Can you tell me where I can get a Broccoli picking machine ? how about a strawberry picker, an eggplant picker, a pepper picker? One to pick cherries? watermelons? cantelopes? Jalepenos?Peaches?Apples? Pears? cucumbers?raspberries? and nice ripe tomatoes? "These people" , the American farmer, would use these machines .....if they existed! Better face it: Hispanics are going to pick just about everything you pick up on the produce Aisle.....it's just a matter of if it's grown here in the USA or in Mexico or points south.

New York  |  October, 07, 2011 at 03:23 PM

US farmers need workers, but so does other industries. Solution? Mandatory E-verify combined with legalization of all the suffering undocumented workers who are here plus a robust guest worker program for high-and low-skilled workers.

Minnesota  |  October, 07, 2011 at 04:23 PM

I would love to see the farm jobs filled by U.S. citizens!! Just try to live off the income from a small farm. City folks in my neighborhood dont want to pay for the value of good Certified Organic food. They are looking for cheap food. Hence migrant workers who will work for minimum wages and survive on it well, unlike our spoiled young generation that have an unsatiable urge to have what they want and NOW, with a give me what I want attitude that puts them in debt like our country with "WHOM" to bail them out! Sorry for the rant and rave,not really.

No More Illegals    
USA  |  October, 09, 2011 at 02:56 PM

Hey greedy farmers...how about hiring LEGAL Americans and pay a decent wage with benefits? The farms are a big part of the illegal alien problem. So now they get what they deserve. They have broken the law for so long, now they don't know how (or don't care to) hire people that are legal to work in this country. Too damn bad farmers, HIRE AMERICAN !!

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