USDA Conference Addresses Labor, Immigration Reform

March 9, 2007 - 10:20

The American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) spoke on behalf of labor-intensive agriculture in the United States at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Agricultural Outlook Conference. ANLA provided an overview of agriculture’s needs, specifics on the green industry’s issues and an update and outlook on the prospects for reform. The statement was presented by ANLA’s senior director of government relations, Craig Regelbrugge, who also co-chairs the Agriculture Coalititon for Immigration Reform.

Countering the opponents of immigration reform, Regelbrugge pointed out that between 1990 and 2002 labor productivity in U.S. agriculture increased by 29 percent. Aggregate agricultural output increased 15.4 percent, while total labor input decreased by 9.2 percent. So the notion that growers and producers have relied on hiring illegal workers rather than adopting labor-saving technological innovations is baseless, according to ANLA.

Rather, ANLA described an American economy that has produced millions more jobs than there are Americans available and willing to take them. This idea, coupled with the fact that many jobs in agriculture are seasonal or intermittent, may explain why agriculture was the first industry to suffer actual and worsening labor shortages in 2006, according to ANLA.

Regulbrugge and the ANLA hope Congress and the administration recognize this national dilemma and act quickly. “President Bush, as a former border state governor, understands what needs to happen,” said Regelbrugge. “So do dozens of senators and representatives that have already put their names behind the AgJOBS legislation. We have a golden opportunity to begin to secure our borders and secure an immigration policy that makes sense for America’s food supply and economy.”

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