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Editorial: Take action on immigration reform

Issue Date: March 15, 2006
Doug Mosebar

As farmers and ranchers we are facing spot labor shortages throughout the state, a problem that could impact you and become much more severe if Congress fails to enact a guest worker program.

Now is your time to weigh in on this issue by contacting your congressional representative. It is easy and it is important. From your computer go to www.cfbf.com, click on the Farm Team icon, join Farm Team if you are not already a member and follow the prompts for submitting an electronic message to your congressional representative. There is a letter on this site already written for you, or you may compose your own that personalizes this issue according to the circumstances on your farm, ranch or supporting operation.

The House passage of H.R. 4437, an immigration enforcement-only bill last year, was the warm-up. That vote was taken to prove that Congress can get tough on border enforcement. Even House members casting their votes knew it was not the last word. Now it is up to the Senate to advance the argument, and the debate has begun with Sen. Arlen Specter's holding Judiciary committee hearings. These hearing are in progress, and your efforts to influence the outcome of discussions are vital.

The new terms of this debate go well beyond ag jobs and now include a push for strict border enforcement as a starting point, with a guest worker program as a secondary consideration. Specter, R-Pa., will accept amendments dealing specifically with the migratory and seasonal nature of agricultural work. Here is where we, as family farmers and ranchers, must come together with one clear, loud voice.

These amendments are essential to the future of farming and ranching. Will existing workers be required to return to their home countries to qualify for temporary work status? Will there be a specific numerical quota for agriculture? How many years will individuals be allowed to stay? Can our employees travel back and forth from their home countries? How long must an individual be employed in agriculture? What terms will be established for future guest worker programs under the H2A, and will those terms be any better than those that exist today?

This is one of those issues that could be a defining moment for California farmers and ranchers. We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch as events progress. We all have a stake in immigration reform. It is time to take action by writing letters, making calls to our congressional representatives and responding to media inquiries as we are asked for our position.

A safe and stable domestic food supply for the United States is, after all, a national security issue. As California family farmers and ranchers, you supply half of the nation's fruits and vegetables and you employ 450,000 individuals during the peak harvest season. From each on-farm job, three to four jobs are created in related sectors such as packaging, marketing and transportation. Get those folks that depend on your crops and commodities to take action on this issue as well.

Jobs in farming, ranching, construction and the hospitality industry simply are not going to be filled by today's domestic work force, especially when these jobs are seasonal and migratory. Our farm and ranch employees deserve credit for their hard work and willingness to move from crop to crop and location to location. Let's give them the support they deserve by endorsing a guest worker program.

Clearly the challenge is before us; how we react now will impact us for many years to come. Step up to this challenge and take action on this issue today.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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