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August 8, 2013

Farm Labor Needs Are Tied to Immigration Reform

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

Farmers and ranchers are putting heat on their members of Congress to get immigration reform finished when they return to Washington from their summer break. Oregon blueberry grower Doug Krahmer explains why that’s such a big deal for him and other farmers in this story from AFBF’s Johnna Miller.
Miller:Those people whose idea of immigration reform is to just shut down the border must not like fresh fruit grown in the United States. Farmers like Oregon blueberry grower Doug Krahmer are making it clear to their members of Congress who are home for their summer break that such an action would put many U.S. fruit and vegetable farms out of business.
Krahmer:Eventually things are going to go to the point where we will have the fruit if we import it, but it’s not going to be from the States.
Miller:That’s because growers like Krahmer must have workers to harvest their crops and to prune them in the off-season. But U.S. workers don’t want to take the temporary, migratory work that calls for carrying heavy loads and working out in the weather. Workers from other countries risk breaking the law to get those same jobs.
Krahmer:It’s a big deal for us because they tell us 70 percent of our workforce do not have legal documents. And as an employer I want workers that have legal documents.
Miller:The catch is that agricultural employers have to accept any documents at face value. It’s the law. The Senate has passed legislation that would fix many of the problems with the federal guestworker program. It calls for the creation of a new agricultural worker program, administered by the USDA, where workers would be able to enter the country under a 3-year visa term and work for designated agricultural employers. The House is still working on its version, which will likely be several different bills.
Krahmer:What I really need is a reliable legal source of labor. A legal workforce for agriculture is absolutely necessary and the sooner we can get it the better off we’re all going to be, consumers, farmers, everybody right down the line.
Miller:Johnna Miller, Washington.
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