Western Growers' Tom Nassif Testifies Before House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship
IRVINE, CA - This month, Western Growers President & CEO Tom Nassif appeared before Congress to detail the circumstances facing farmers as they grapple with the critical labor shortages facing American agriculture. Nassif outlined his case for immigration reform before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, detailing a two-pronged proposal for agricultural immigration reform.
“The simple fact is this,” Nassif articulated, “fruits and vegetables that are eaten in the United States will be harvested by foreign hands...The simple question for you, as members of Congress, is do you want those foreign hands harvesting your fruits and vegetables to be on farms here in the United States or do you want to see production continue to shift to farms in foreign countries?”
After detailing the shortcomings of the existing H-2A program, a program Western Growers characterized as “flawed” and “rife with burdensome regulatory red tape,” Nassif detailed a proposal that would jointly provide a pathway to legalization for existing farmworkers and their immediate families and create a more flexible, efficient, and market-based agricultural worker visa program to ensure a sufficient future flow of labor.
In his testimony, Nassif noted that experienced workers are aging out of the agricultural workforce with few Americans lining up to take their place, despite wages well above state and federal minimums. Farmers in all sectors of U.S. agriculture, especially in the labor-intensive fruit and vegetable industries, are experiencing chronic labor shortages, which have been exacerbated by recent interior immigration enforcement and tighter border security policies. As a result of the uncertain agricultural labor market, Nassif stated, that many American farmers are either shifting toward more mechanized crops or moving their operations to other countries.
Nassif noted, in conclusion, that “immigration can be among the most divisive and difficult to resolve in Washington,” yet he added that the issue is squarely non-partisan insofar as agricultural immigration reform is about securing the future of American agriculture and, by extension, long-term U.S. food security.
In its statement on Nassif’s testimony, Western Growers applauded the efforts of Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren and Ranking Member Ken Buck to “elevate the dialogue around this vital issue,” and noted, “we look forward to working across the aisle to advance bipartisan legislation that provides our country and farmers with a legal, stable and reliable source of agricultural labor.”
AndNowUKnow will continue to report on efforts to address labor shortages in the fresh produce industry.