A cross-section of Michigan agriculture will hold a news conference at 1770 28th St., SE, in Grand Rapids at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, to call on Congress to pass immigration reform this fall.
Speakers will describe labor shortages, crop losses and economic uncertainty in multiple sectors of Michigan agriculture this growing season due to lack of functional immigration and work visa policies.
Speakers will include:
•Don Coe, Commissioner of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development and managing partner of Black Star Farms, a commercial vineyard and winery in Suttons Bay;
•Diane Smith, Executive Director, Michigan Apple Committee in DeWitt;
•Fred Leitz, Eastern Vice President of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, a trustee of US •Apple Association and grower of strawberries, apples and vegetables at Leitz Farms, LLC, in Sodus, Michigan;
•Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of United Fresh Produce Association in Washington, DC, who has just completed a series of nationwide listening sessions identifying immigration reform as the U.S. produce industry's top concern.
The news conference will be held at the Christian Reformed Church's national headquarters at
1770 28th St., SE, in Grand Rapids. CRC is one of the partners of the coalition working for comprehensive immigration reform.
Agriculture is a $91.4 billion industry in Michigan, and employs over 1 million Michigan residents. Michigan produces the second-largest number of crops among all states. Half of the state's farm-gate value is specialty crops, which are often hand-picked, trimmed and packed by a short-term migratory workforce native to Mexico and Latin America. Most agricultural jobs have proved unappealing to Michigan residents.