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Immigration Reform and Agriculture

Immigration Reform and Agriculture

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Immigration Reform and Agriculture

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  1. Immigration Reform and Agriculture Craig J. Regelbrugge, Co-chair Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform V.P. Gov’t Relations, Amer. Nursery & Landscape Assn cregelbrugge@anla.org

  2. Goals • Offer a national perspective on immigration reform and the realities facing labor-intensive agriculture • Explore nature and scope of the challenge, and implications • Provide an outlook for both meaningful reform, negative developments • Discuss how farm credit community can help

  3. What is “ACIR”? • Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform • Formed in 2001 to lead effort to negotiate, enact bipartisan reform legislation • Over 300 national, regional, state groups whose members are engaged in all facets of labor-intensive agriculture: fruit, vegetable, dairy and livestock, nursery & greenhouse

  4. Hired Farm Workforce in U.S. • 1.6 million “serious” farmworkers • 80% foreign born • ~70% unauthorized • IRCA-1986 • Legalized 1.2 million farmworkers • Launched statistical gathering • We know more about demographics of farm labor force than remainder of economy…

  5. We Didn’t Get Here Overnight • 1989: 7% of farmworkers admitted in gov’t surveys that they were not authorized to work in the U.S. • 1994: 34% • 1998: 52% • Each year, 1 in 6 farmworkers new to the sector, and 99% are unauthorized • Lack of legal channels has led to the crisis

  6. Why Do Farmworkers Leave? • Wages? Not so much… • Nature of work • Entry level, seasonal, intermittent • Physically demanding, difficult • Tighter border has had opposite of intended effect by encouraging long-term settlement, search for year-round work • See “Backfire at the Border” by Douglas Massey, Princeton Univ.

  7. Are Foreign Workers Taking Jobs from Americans? • Through 1990’s, American economy produced hundreds of thousands of jobs each year in excess of Americans entering job market and legal immigration • Domestic workers – and many foreign workers – were “sucked out” of agriculture • Foreign workers filled the void • Only legal channel—H-2A—fills less than 2% of farm jobs (4.6% in NY)

  8. The Rest of the Story… • Employers meet requirements of the law at time of hiring (I-9 process) • Over time, best workers promoted into key positions, year-round jobs. Backbone of industry • Any reform solution must address this aspect of the workforce or agriculture will be devastated

  9. Is There A Labor Shortage?

  10. Labor Shortage? • Some superficial reports say “no” • Anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise: • Quarter of NoCal pear crop lost 2006 • 1 million lbs asparagus in MI lost 2007 • Labor force “triage” • Broader analysis (1990-2002) shows: • 29% increase in labor productivity in crop production • 15.4% increase in output • 9.2% decrease in labor input

  11. And… • Considering global picture, U.S. is steadily losing market share in specialty crops • Nearly one third of fresh fruit and one fifth of fresh vegetables consumed in U.S. are now imported • This is double to more than double the market share of imports in 1990 • Growing market overall is masking erosion of U.S. producers’ market share

  12. Risks to the Sector: NY Study • NY Farm Credit Associations studied risks of enforcement-only approach. At high risk are: • Over 800 dairy, nursery, fruit, vegetable farms with at least $700 million in sales • 750,000 acres of farmland subject to conversion to less profitable crops or taken out of production altogether • Almost 16,000 non-farm but farm-dependent jobs, especially in rural areas

  13. Outlook for Reform • Unique Ag history, position • Ag first to admit problem, seek solution • Commitment to bipartisan approach after guest-worker-only efforts failed • Successful negotiation of landmark AgJOBS bills in 2003 • AgJOBS passed Senate in 2006, was feature of comprehensive bill in 2007, still pending as S.340 and H.R. 371

  14. Ag’s Position in the Debate • Many policymakers see ag as different • Jobs Americans least likely to fill • Food security, national security • Longstanding bipartisan agreement vs. hasty closed negotiation • Some support incremental or “pilot” approach • Addressing agriculture would allow for testing of approaches, distribution of workload

  15. AgJOBS in Brief • Long-term solution by reforming H-2A • Streamline, simplify process • Legal reform, Wage relief • “Bridge” or transition via “Blue Card” • experienced workers could earn eventual status subject to strict conditions • ~800,000 workers expected to qualify • Especially attractive for dairy industry • Structure important politically, substantively

  16. High Hopes, High Hurdles • Post-Senate failure, many see immigration as “off the table” • Collapsing middle, wedge politics (whether a good idea or not…) • Complications of wide-open presidential contest

  17. Yet, We Have Assets • Considerable support, highly motivated champions • Chance to move as “pilot” ahead of comprehensive reform • Some potential for “rifle-shot” or smart, lean bill early in 2008

  18. Other Dynamics • Social Security No-Match Rule • Bush Admin Regulatory Reform of H-2A • Enforcement-only bills • H.R. 4088 now has over 130 cosponsors • Raids, even rumor of raids • Epidemic of state and local laws • “Innovation labs or race to the bottom?”

  19. Needs • Grassroots action/political education • Economic impact insights • Favorable media • Community outreach

  20. Where Is the American Public? • Most polls, evidence suggest: • Small but vocal minority (~20%) • Concerned but pragmatic majority (60 to 75%) • Key challenge: sound bytes easier for seal-the-border and deport restrictionists • Key issues: sense of fair play, real solutions

  21. How Can Farm Credit Help? • Economic Analysis: inform the debate by developing analysis of risks of inaction or unwise action (e.g., enforcement only) • NY Farm Credit methodology… • Media: Who can speak out? Farm Credit well positioned to organize press outreach, position spokespeople • Grassroots: Inform networks about www.saveUSfarms.org

  22. Ronald Reagan Radio Address: “One thing is certain in this hungry world: no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for a lack of harvesters…”

  23. Questions?