Nov 20, 2014
Ag interests await impact of Obama’s announcement

The agriculture community was awaiting details on Thursday night’s announcement by President Barack Obama in which it’s anticipated he will issue a series of executive actions to grant as many as 5 million unauthorized immigrants permits to work in the United States and temporary reprieve from deportation.

Republicans on Thursday vowed a strong response to the announcement, accusing the president of exceeding the power of his office and promising a legislative fight when they take full control of Congress next year.

Frank Gasperini, executive vice president/CEO, National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE), commented on the situation in advance of Obama’s announcement.

“For reasons apparently known only to him, the president has chosen to announce his administrative action on immigration this week,” Gasperini said. “The strategy, if any, behind this timing is elusive at best. It appears that he will ‘go big’ and include a wide swath of folks with long-term presence, stability, and in many cases U.S. citizen children, in deferred action.

“The immediate (and after the new Congress is seated) reaction of Republicans is not yet clear, however, there will be at least some budget implications,” Gasperini said. “It is unclear if Congress will press the issue all the way to another government shutdown, or more likely, use budget withholding strategies to delay/impede implementation.

The bottom lines for agricultural employers, according to Gasperini, include:

“It does not appear there is any unique treatment or accommodation for agriculture in the plan.

Early reports indicate that those receiving deferred action will not be beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act subsidized coverage or other government benefits, or as a result trigger the employer mandate. Executive action does not bestow “lawful presence,” only deferral of removal actions and some time-limited temporary work authorization (assuming that is both included and allowed to stand by the inevitable legal challenges that will ensue.)

Republicans in the House suggest targeted budget fights to prevent implementation. While we understand concerns about addressing immigration though executive order instead of legislation, an appropriations fight could unintentionally harm implementation of H-2 and other critical agricultural programs and services by withholding the resources necessary to run such programs.

While we remain concerned that broad deferrals could allow other industries such as construction to cannibalize an already insufficient agricultural labor supply, the reality is that administrative action is likely to benefit more established workers and as a result there is hope that many will remain in their current jobs by choice.

Our chief concern is that the squabbling between Congress and the administration will only intensify and further delay real legislative reforms in the general immigration arena, and making meaningful improvements in administration of the H-2 programs that much more difficult.

“In the end, we (NCAE) continue to maintain that legislation will be required for any long-term solutions to the agricultural labor dilemma. We will continue to work toward positive legislative solutions.

“In addition,” Gasperini said, “the Ag Workforce Coalition is preparing a statement that we will be signed on to that reiterates the fact that agriculture needs a real legislative fix to immigration and temporary labor visas that will work for us and that we will continue to work toward that with any and all Congressional members and staff who will engage with our coalition.”

The AWC’s statement read as follows:

“In light of the president’s announcement today, AWC re-emphasizes that the only way to permanently fix agriculture’s labor shortage is through legislation. As we look forward to the start of the new Congress in January, we strongly urge the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the administration, to come together and pass legislation that both deals with the reality of the current agricultural workforce and recognizes the need for a new, market-based visa program to meet farmers’ future labor needs.

“Without such legislation, farmers will continue to be unable to find the workers they need to pick crops or care for livestock; more food production will go overseas; local economies across the country will suffer; and the American consumer will pay more for the food they eat.

“What farmers, ranchers and growers need, and what the American people deserve, is for policy makers in Washington to do their jobs and act to solve the country’s broken immigration system.“

The AWC brings together over 70 organizations representing the diverse needs of agricultural employers across the country. AWC serves as “the unified voice of agriculture in the effort to ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers and growers have access to a stable and secure workforce.”

Gary Pullano


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