Ag Groups Put Pressure On Immigration Issue, But House Uneasy

Groups say lack of policies for ag immigration has a trickle-down effect on the American economy and consumer

Published on: Feb 4, 2014

The Farm Bureau estimates that currently, two million people are hired each year to work on American farms, each supporting two to three other employees downstream in jobs like sales, marketing, and transportation.

Eliminating immigrant labor, they add, would increase food prices for American consumers. Citing a 2012 Texas A&M University study, AFBF said farms using immigrant labor supply more than three-fifths of the milk in the country, and without the labor, the number of dairy farms would drop by 4,532. This droop would reduce milk production by 29.5 billion pounds and raise retail milk prices by an estimated 61%.

Perfect timing
Chuck Conner, CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said the timing of the new campaign is ideal, given that the House of Representatives Republicans have recently released an outline of immigration principles.

Related: Senate Immigration Bill Only First Step

According to a summary, the group suggests that any temporary worker program should allow for "realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States" and would not displace or disadvantage American workers.

But even then, a hang-up could be border security, explained Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on ABC's This Week. A divide in the House on the issue has raised concerns that it make take a considerable amount of time to agree on something.

Ryan noted the prospect of a bill within the year is "clearly in doubt," Reuters reports.

The Senate has already passed its version of immigration reform, agreed to last June.