Ag labor hearing dissects immigration issues in the food supply chain
By Nicole Heslip, Brownfield
July 21, 2021
U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack pleaded with the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday to find a labor solution that works for agricultural producers, processors, and workers.
“Immigrant labor comes in and does the difficult, challenging work that the rest of us is not interesting in doing, they do it well, and they have the notion of being able to supply a better opportunity for a better life for their family,” he says. “We need to figure out something that allows them to have that connection to their family that the rest of us enjoy every single day.”
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, chairman of the committee, testified on the importance of immigrant labor in the food supply chain and how essential workers have become even more important through COVID-19, even though about half of farmworkers are undocumented and fear deportation. “It is an embarrassment to this great nation that we allow this injustice to continue—we in the Senate can change it,” he urged. “We can pass legislation that will not only keep hard-working families together but also strengthen the durability and resiliency of food our food chain.”
Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa says clearly there is still a border crisis and it’s unfortunate that many farmworkers are undocumented at the same time the H-2A program isn’t working. “The primary focus from any such proposal should be reforming the H-2A program to ensure that farmers and employers have access to a stable and legal workforce,” he says. Grassley is calling to streamline the H-2A program allowing for year-round workers, along with reducing costs and red tape...