SAVANNAH, Ga. — The explosive issues of immigration reform and Obamacare dominated the opening day of the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference.

Hot industry issues open Southeast growers showIn Jan. 10, opening day of the 4-day conference, lobbyists for show co-sponsor Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, LaGrange, and the head of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, discussed how the issues will affect grower-shippers.

Frank Gasperini, the executive vice president of the Vienna, Va.-based council, said the Obama administration is releasing the new health care rules.

“They’re not as bad as we feared, but there will be a lot of issues,” Gasperini said. “People want to fix it but we can’t fix it anymore. We as agriculture have to stop being angry about it and get down to the hard work to figure out how we want to run our businesses with it and make the law more palatable for us.”

Robert Redding Jr., a lobbyist with Washington, D.C.-based Redding Firm, gave a rundown on the U.S. House and Senate agriculture committee representation.

“We have a strong Southeastern representation in both parties,” he said. “We are hopeful as we get into this nomination process, there will be a time when the Southeast senators make their case known to administration that we’re not pleased with what has occurred in the past four years relative to immigration and H-2A changes involving farm labor.”

Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia growers association, said early registration shows record-high show attendance.