More than 70 of the largest American agricultural groups, including those representing the fresh produce industry, have joined a national campaign promoting immigration reform for growers.
The campaign, called #ifarmimmigration, brings together the groups in support of immigration reform efforts in 2014, according to a news release.
“With the recent release of Republican immigration standards and the highlighting of agriculture’s unique need for action, it is clear that the time for Congress to reform our broke immigration system has arrived,” Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers, said in the release. “Working together with other industries, the faith community, and other reform minded leaders is critical to achieving our shared goals.”
There is an urgent priority in the agricultural community for broad-based immigration reform, said Tom Stenzel, president of Washington, D.C.-based United fresh Produce Association.
“Our fresh fruit and vegetable members are facing labor shortages now and literally cannot afford to wait any longer,” Stenzel said in the release.
The campaign kicks off with a Capitol Hill briefing on Feb. 5, according to the release. The campaign includes new data on labor shortages, while growers and ranchers will be telling their stories with farm tours, social media and other events, according to the release.
American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman said the campaign will highlight the fact that growers who cannot find labor will plant less labor-intensive crops or move their operations off shore.
“Simply put, either we import our labor or we import our food,” Stallman said in the release.