American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) member Bart Worthington of Arizona spoke at a bipartisan press conference held in Phoenix to call on Congress to act on the agricultural labor crisis. Worthington was joined by Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers, and Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who Chairs the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Education Fund.
Worthington addressed the growing labor crisis, saying, “It is deeply troubling that our Congress has deferred a solution for so long. Our coalition partners nearby in Yuma fear a disaster with the winter crop of lettuce and other vegetables. We face a national challenge that demands a full solution. That solution is AgJOBS.”
AgJOBS, a broadly supported bipartisan solution to the agricultural labor crisis, was voted upon in the Senate last May. While a majority of the Senate voted “yes” on a vote to proceed with consideration of the bill, it narrowly missed the supermajority required to pass a procedural vote. The failure to pass that vote was attributed in part to a competing bill supported by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), which drew support from AgJOBS, according to ANLA.
Presently the House of Representatives is considering several “enforcement only” bills. According to Craig Regelbrugge, Senior Director of Government Relations for ANLA, “Agriculture understands the need and inevitability for border security and enhanced enforcement, but enforcement must be paired with reforms that ensure access to legal workers for agriculture. Enforcement alone will be disastrous for the agricultural industries in America.”
Worthington’s closing remarks echoed Regelbrugge’s warning, “Those sectors that can move offshore will, taking with them good jobs in processing, transportation, packaging, equipment, farm lending and insurance. Local economies will be devastated. America will be less safe and secure as we rely more and more on other countries to feed us.”