As the Senate continues to work through Immigration legislation, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that immigration reform has some big benefits to offer American agricultural producers and their employees.
In a press call, the two Secretaries noted social, economic and public safety aspects of immigration reform.
"The reality is that we have got about 1.1 million people who are working in agriculture today; roughly 700,000 of them are probably not documented properly," Vilsack said. He explained that a lack of immigration policy can result in huge losses in economic opportunity and un-harvested products.
"There just simply are not enough hands in the field," he noted.
Napolitano highlighted the safety aspects of the legislation, noting that it will increase the number of officers that will be stationed at ports of entry, and further regulate the number of immigrants coming into the country.
Napolitano also addressed the e-verify program, a database that checks the employment eligibility of persons applying for a job. Though the program is currently in use, she noted that it agricultural employers will be in the final tier of implementation due to technology concerns.
"We are already working on how to (implement e-verify) with technology that is mobile and fast and can be taken out to the field, recognizing the special circumstances of rural America," she explained.