Farm Bureau sees no help for farmers in immigration initiative

newspaperThe American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm organization, has voiced displeasure with President Obama’s immigration reform initiative.

“In practical terms, we do not expect the president’s initiative to help America’s farmers deal with the real labor challenges they face,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said in a Nov. 20 statement. “Our nation loses millions of dollars in fruit and vegetable production every year because farmers cannot find labor to harvest everything they grow. This order will not change that.”

Immigration reform is one of AFBF’s critical issues. Its policy states that “U.S. agriculture faces a critical shortage of workers every year, as citizens are largely unwilling to engage in these rigorous activities and guestworker programs are unable to respond to the marketplace. This situation makes our farms and ranches less competitive with foreign farmers and less reliable for the American consumer. Securing a reliable and competent workforce for our nation’s farms and ranches is essential to agriculture and the U.S. economy.”

Stallman’s statement was issued in response to President Obama’s tri-pronged approach to securing additional border resources; making it easier for high-skilled immigrants to stay in the United States; and dealing responsibly with millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in the country.

“Farmers and ranchers need a new, flexible visa program that ensures long-term access to an expanding workforce by allowing foreign-born workers to enter the U.S.,” Stallman said. “We also need to permit some current workers, many of whom have helped sustain our operations for years, to remain working in America.

Congress has a golden opportunity to present a clear vision on immigration in America. We need legislation that addresses border security and enforcement, improves an outdated agricultural visa program and gives experienced agricultural workers a way to gain legal status.

Congress and the president must work together to find a solution that works for America.”

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