Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is continuing his push to get Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that has been stalled for the past several months.
For the past few years, immigration reform has been seen as one of the few ways that farmers can solve their ongoing labor shortages. Despite their best efforts, farmer have reported great difficulty attracting US citizens to farm jobs (and recent tough new immigration laws have driven away undocumented workers and shrunk the overall labor pool).
While various farm organizations and rural politicians have united behind immigration reform, this solution appears just out of reach. While the Senate may have agreed on an immigration bill, it remains dead in the House, with Speaker John Boehner refusing to allow the Senate bill to reach the floor for a vote.
Vilsack recently spoke at a conference call to a group of New York dairy farmers, a group facing an ongoing economic decline thanks to fluctuating prices and tight labor markets), and stated that immigration reform is necessary to the protection of the farm sector.
According to Vilsack, about 60 to 70 percent of New York’s farmworkers are immigrants, and a majority of them undocumented. The Senate’s proposed W-Visa, a replacement for the much-maligned H-2A program would help move undocumented workers out of the shadows and would help stabilize the employment pool in state like New York.
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