I doubt there are many Republican reps who are willing to risk their House seat by pushing immigration reform against their voters’ wishes.
Another argument several panelists made is that the Senate must pass immigration reform with a comfortable margin, such as more than 70 votes in favor, to send a strong message to the House.
United Fresh president Tom Stenzel said United Fresh set up a hotline on the expo floor May 15-16 for attendees to punch in their zip codes and send a message to their senators saying they support the immigration reform bill. Stenzel said public comments have been about 10-to-1 against the bill, so senators need to hear from their supporters.
Considering the tone in Washington the past few years, I highly doubt anything the Senate does will send an influential message to the House, considering it’s led by the other political party.
Another panelist, Chalmers Carr, president of Titan Farms, Ridge Spring, S.C., differed some from the coalition goal of pushing the Senate bill in the House. He said he believes the House needs to pass an immigration bill of any kind — not necessarily the Senate version — which could be improved.
“If we don’t get a bill in the House, we can’t go to conference committee, and we cannot get an end game,” he said.
Carr called this a piecemeal approach compared to a preferred comprehensive approach, but it may be the only way for agriculture to get anything passed on immigration this year.
It’s possible the House could pass a guest worker program with no path to citizenship, or other reforms, which would help agriculture in the short term.
But there’s another solution.
On the expo floor, I got the rundown on a new film wrapping machine from Ramsay Highlander Inc., Gonzales, Calif.
President and chief executive officer Frank Maconachy said it’s primarily for lettuce, and a typical configuration would pack more lettuce in fields than a current crew with field workers, save $600,000 a year in labor and pay for itself in savings in just over a year.
“I’m baffled as to why this doesn’t sell better,” he said.
I asked him if he appealed to growers on labor grounds, and he said as a member of Western Growers, he knows the immigration problems, and that machines like this could help solve them.