Rugelbrugge say there may be as many as 2 million immigrants working in American agriculture and up to half of them are undocumented.
He argued that there are two very different kinds of American agriculture, both of which draw heavily on immigrants for their labor force. One is the highly mechanized row crop operations that have experienced extreme success in the export market, along with dairy farms and livestock operations that are looking for long-term to permanent employees.
The other is the labor-intensive specialty crops that tend to be more seasonal.
"The perishable nature of their product and the rural location, along with cyclical layoffs make it hard to attract and keep labor," he said.
He disputed the notion that most farming operations are "huge, highly profitable, corporate businesss."
"The large corporate farm is largely a myth," he said. "The overwhelming number of America's 2.2 million farms are family farms. They may be incorporated, but the shareholders are all members of the same family."
He also noted that even as the U.S. hammers out immigration policy, demographics and circumstances are changing.
"Solutions that made sense 15 years ago are not on the table today," he said. "Things are changing. Mexico has been the largest provider of American farm labor, but the birth rate in Mexico has fallen to 2.4, the economy is improving and we need new strategies to compete."
Pressed to talk about areas of agreement, Ruark said his organization agrees that farm workers should be paid a living wage, that a workable guest worker program is essential and that we as a nation deserve and should have secure and well managed borders.