Commentary: Immigration reform must address farms' unique needs
America's farmers and ranchers need a balanced immigration reform bill that includes a fair and workable farm labor provision. That is what we got in June. When the Senate passed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, it was welcomed by farmers and ranchers.
Passage of the Senate bill was the first step toward securing a comprehensive agricultural labor plan that works for all sectors of agriculture and across all regions of our nation. The Senate-passed bill will help ensure an adequate supply of farm labor. It also provides increased surveillance of high-risk areas along our borders.
Even with that progress, much work remains as we now focus on the House, where we will continue to work toward passage of responsible immigration reform legislation that includes an earned adjustment for experienced, undocumented agricultural workers and a new, flexible guestworker program.
Helping members of Congress and the public understand that farmers and ranchers depend on the workers who show up every day to tend our crops and raise livestock has been challenging at times. However, we press on because we know responsible immigration reform is imperative for the continued success of American agriculture.
A point that we must continue to drive home is that one of the best ways to improve border security is to create a legal, workable way for farmworkers to enter our country. With less time and resources wasted locking up lettuce harvesters, the focus can shift to where it properly belongs: keeping those with criminal intentions out of our country.
Although the specific labor needs of farmers across our nation vary, we will all benefit from immigration reform. We need a solution that addresses agriculture's unique labor needs with a market-based, flexible agricultural worker program, which reflects real-life workforce challenges for all crop and livestock producers.
Reforms to our broken immigration system will assure that farmers and ranchers have a legal, stable supply of workers, both in the short and long term, for all types of agriculture. It is our preference to grow our nation's food in our nation, and having the labor required to do that is in the best interest of all Americans.
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