Yesterday, the White House released a report that provides further evidence that commonsense, bipartisan immigration reform would provide economic benefits for our nation’s agriculture sector, our workforce, and rural communities. The report highlights the strong growth states’ agriculture sectors have seen in recent years and underscores how that growth can support other parts of our economy – especially in rural communities focused on agricultural development. In fact, in many of these communities, a temporary worker program and an earned path to citizenship will boost farm output and produce other positive spillover effects. Coupled with a decline in native-born rural populations, the strength and continuity of rural America is contingent on commonsense immigration reform that improves job opportunity, provides local governments with the tools they need to succeed, and increases economic growth.
In June, the Senate passed historic legislation that is largely consistent with the President’s principles for commonsense immigration reform with a strong bipartisan vote. This bill would strengthen border security, while providing an earned path to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers who are vital to our nation’s agriculture industry, and a new temporary worker program negotiated by major grower associations and farmworker groups. If enacted, the Senate bill would result in undocumented workers paying a fine, their full share of taxes and is estimated to allow an estimated 1.5 million agricultural workers and their dependents to earn legal status. A diverse group of stakeholders know this: it’s a major reason why they are calling on the House to join the Senate in acting to fix our broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone — both from workers here illegally and from those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.
While the debate inside Washington continues, here’s a look at how this new report is getting covered outside the beltway, in many of the farm and rural communities that would benefit from commonsense immigration reform:
AZ – AZ Central (Gonzalez): Vilsack: Farmers need immigration reform U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today made a push for comprehensive immigration reform, saying the nation’s broken immigration system is contributing to labor scarcities that are forcing some farmers to shrink operations and move crop production out of the country. “History has shown that when you have comprehensive immigration reform, when you have an immigration system that is working, the economy grows, jobs are created and working conditions improve,” Vilsack said in a telephone conference call with reporters. But “significant shortages of farm workers” exacerbated by the broken immigration system means farmers are not getting their crops harvested, Vilsack said, basing his information on discussions with farmers and farm groups. Link
CA – San Francisco Chronicle (Lochhead): White House: California could lose farms without immigration reform The White House applied pressure on rural lawmakers Monday with a report that immigration reform is necessary to keep farms from moving operations abroad. “Folks are making decisions to move their operations out of the United States,” because of a lack of workers, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a conference call. The biggest effect is in California with its $34 billion a year produce industry. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested and packed by hand, mostly by immigrant workers who crossed the border illegally. Vilsack said that without better access to migrant farm workers, the state could lose between $1.7 billion and $3.1 billion a year in lost farm income. The report said 74 percent of the state’s farm labor force is non-citizen, and probably most of those are undocumented. Link
CA – ABCNews10 (Chebium): Report: 73 percent of Calif. farm jobs held by non-citizens California agriculture would suffer unless Congress overhauls the immigration system, the Obama administration said Monday in a renewed push to lobby for a Senate-approved measure that has the support of the Golden State's farm lobby. Seventy-three percent of California's agricultural workers are non-citizens -- the highest in any state -- and a majority of them are undocumented workers, according to a White House report issued Monday. Washington state, where 60 percent of farm workers are non-citizens, and Florida, with 59 percent, round out the top three, according to the report, released the week before Congress is to leave for the summer. Link
IA – Des Moines Register (Doering): White House says U.S. agriculture would benefit from immigration reform The Obama administration made it latest push for immigration reform Monday, warning that American agriculture could experience a growing shortage of farm labor if current laws are enforced. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters that immigration reform is needed to provide employment security for farm workers, provide a fair playing field for those producers currently playing by the rules and help increase rural populations where government’s will be able to collect more income through taxes. Link
IA – Radio Iowa (Henderson): Vilsack says immigration reform crucial for ag interests U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the ag industry will suffer if congress fails to enact some sort of immigration reforms. “If you know what I know about the impact of the immigrant workforce on agriculture, you recognize that this is something that needs to get done,” Vilsack says. “We have had crops not harvested, crops not raised and crops actually leaving the United States and being grown elsewhere because we have a broken immigration system.” America’s agricultural industry has been able to keep food prices low, in part, with cheap immigrant labor. In 2006, 77 percent of all agricultural workers in the United States were born in another country. Vilsack cites a recent study in the state of Georgia. Link
IN – Hoosier Ag Today (Truitt): New Report Highlights Importance of Immigration Reform to Ag U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has released a report that cites the need for immigration reform to benefit agriculture. Vilsack praised the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill and said it is now up to the House to pass a comprehensive measure or series of bills that would equate to comprehensive legislation. If the immigration system is not reformed – Vilsack said there will be reductions in agricultural production that will put the nation’s food security at risk over time. He also noted the broad coalition backing immigration reform – and said there is no excuse not to get it done. Link
KS – Wichita Eagle (Wistrom): New worker visa program could help Kansas add farm jobs, says report TOPEKA – Kansas could add 757 new farm jobs that would bolster the state’s agriculture sector and generate tax revenue for state and federal governments if Congress approves immigration reforms that include a new worker visa program, according to a new report from the Obama administration. Meanwhile, the report shows Kansas stands to lose $7.6 million to $13.7 million of agriculture production if immigrant labor were eliminated. In a conference call Monday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the report provides new evidence of the need for comprehensive immigration reform that has been approved by the Senate but has yet to be formally debated in the House. Link
NE – Nebraska Radio Network (Kelley): USDA boss pushes for immigration reform Nebraska has the fourth largest agricultural economy in the country, but U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the ag industries in the state and nation will suffer if Congress fails to enact some sort of immigration reform. “If you know what I know about the impact of the immigrant workforce on agriculture, you recognize that this is something that needs to get done,” Vilsack says. “We have had crops not harvested, crops not raised and crops actually leaving the United States and being grown elsewhere because we have a broken immigration system.” Link
NE – Omaha World-Herald (Morton): Ag chief Vilsack: Farm country would get a boost from immigration overhaul A broad immigration system overhaul would represent an economic boost for those in farm country, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday. It's the latest tactic in the Obama administration's efforts to persuade the GOP-controlled House to pass an immigration bill. The White House released a report Monday featuring an analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other sources that highlights foreign workers' importance to the agricultural sector, which has faced labor shortages in some parts of the country. “The bottom line is simply that the lack of labor will today — and will in the future if it continues — result in a decrease in agricultural production, a decrease in agricultural outputs and exports,” Vilsack said, “which obviously will cost farm income and jobs and the economy.” Link