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Optimism for immigration reform

DANIEL LOOKER Updated: 01/14/2013 @ 9:15am Business Editor

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said Sunday that he's optimistic that some type of immigration reform might be passed in Congress, if it can happen within the next nine months, before the next election cycle begins.

"I think the environment is ripe in this nine-month period. It's riper than it has been for several years, maybe," he said.

Stallman said he knows that legislation is being considered in both the House and the Senate, although he hasn't seen any proposals yet. The Senate may be further along, he said.

Both political parties are keenly interested in courting Hispanic voters and the largest group among them, those with ties to Mexico, tend to view immigration reform favorably.

Besides the changing political environment, key lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pushing for reform.

Farm Bureau is one of eleven groups that recently formed the Agriculture Workforce Coalition to push for reform of guest worker programs that would make them easier for farmers and ranchers to use.

The group includes several fruit and produce organizations and the National Milk Producers Federation.

The AWC staff has also reached out to the Obama Administration.

"They had a meeting at the White House to talk about what we're doing and to encourage them to move forward," Stallman said.

The meeting was held within the last two weeks.

According to the AWC, many sectors of agriculture are having trouble finding labor.

"A 2012 survey by the California Farm Bureau found that 71 percent of tree fruit growers, and nearly 80 percent of raisin and berry growers, were unable to find an adequate number of employees to prune trees or vines or pick the crop," says the group's website.

According to AWC: "The shortage of farm workers has several causes, including the reverse migration of workers from the U.S. to Mexico, historic levels of immigration enforcement and bipartisan congressional commitment to a credible work authorization system through mandatory E-Verify.  These factors have contributed to and will exacerbate this shortage if an immediate solution is not enacted as part of immigration reform."


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