Ag Policy Blog

President's Immigration Plan Silent on Farm Labor

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Farm workers protested during the immigration debate in Congress in 2015. President Donald Trump's proposal released Thursday does not address farm labor. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

President Donald Trump on Thursday revealed an immigration proposal that did not include any provisions to address the issue of farmworkers.

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she had not taken a position on the proposal, but would want to consult Michigan farmers about it, Roll Call reported.

“I have not yet seen the full proposal yet but I certainly want to ask my farmers, for instance, who are needing important skilled farm labor. I have no idea if that fits,” Stabenow told Roll Call.

Stabenow also said Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration legislation quickly.

“We need comprehensive immigration reform so that we’re talking about the opportunity for people in a variety of ways to be able to legally come into the United States,” she said.

Chuck Conner, the president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and an industry leader on immigration issues, told DTN in an email, “While the package announced does not contain provisions on agriculture, at the briefing by the White House yesterday we expressed our desire to work with them to ensure that the labor needs of America’s farmers are being discussed as part of a broader dialogue.”

“We continue to emphasize that agriculture is facing nothing short of a full-blown labor crisis today and that the conditions are not sustainable for long,” Connor said.

Kristi Boswell, a senior advisor to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and a former lobbyist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, had been dispatched to the White House this spring to help President Trump's advisors work on the immigration plan.

The California Farm Bureau released a survey at the beginning of May citing that 56% of California farms were not able to find the number of workers they needed at some point over the past five years. The survey cited that more California farmers were using mechanization as a result. https://www.newsweek.com/…

The Washington Post and New York Times headlines both used "cool reception" to describe reaction to the president's immigration plan.

The Washington Post reported about 57% of green cards under the new system would be based on professional skills and education, compared to about 12% now. The family green cards now account for about two-thirds of immigrants, but the White House would reduce that to about one-third of total immigrants. https://www.washingtonpost.com/…

The New York Times noted his plan would rely on a points system rewarding immigrants who are more educated. "We discriminate against genius," the president said. "We discriminate against brilliance."

Future immigrants, under the plan, would be required to learn English, pass a civics exam and be financially self-sufficient before being admitted into the country, the NYT stated. https://www.nytimes.com/…

The plan does not address the young people under "DACA" -- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The plan also does not address the 11 million or so people living in the country now illegally.

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@njdc.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

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