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Immigration and Farm Labor Changes Ahead?

Whether your farm or ranch depends directly on immigrant labor or not, chances are high that workers who have emigrated to the U.S. -- legally or illegally -- are part of the process of getting what you produce to the end user. That makes Thursday's planned announcement of forthcoming federal immigration policy by President Barack Obama so important to the agriculture industry.

The president's remarks Thursday night will likely focus on his effort to put off deportation for up to 5 million undocumented workers and young people (or "dreamers," who came to the U.S. as young children) if they meet certain criteria, namely an age limit, an absence of criminal background, and legal work status.

What's unique -- for better or worse -- in the plans President Obama will lay out Thursday evening during an address at 7:00 p.m. (Central) is the mechanism by which he'll carry them out. Instead of seeking Congressional approval, the President is taking action via executive authority.

"Our immigration system has been broken for decades. And every day we wait to act, millions of undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows: Those who want to pay taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else have no way to live right by the law," according to a statement on Whitehouse.gov. "That is why President Obama is using his executive authority to address as much of the problem as he can, and why he’ll continue to work with Congress to pass comprehensive reform."

Such an approach isn't drawing much support from the ag labor lobby, though; the administration should instead be working together with Congress to pass legislation that leads to a Visa program that's more "market-based" and supports what both migrant workers and the farmers who depend on them want.

"As we look forward to the start of the new Congress in January, we strongly urge the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the Administration, to come together and pass legislation that both deals with the reality of the current agricultural workforce and recognizes the need for a new, market-based visa program to meet farmers’ future labor needs," according to a statement released Thursday by the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, a group representing agricultural employers in the U.S. "Without such legislation, farmers will continue to be unable to find the workers they need to pick crops or care for livestock; more food production will go overseas; local economies across the country will suffer; and the American consumer will pay more for the food they eat. What farmers, ranchers and growers need, and what the American people deserve, is for policy makers in Washington to do their jobs and act to solve the country’s broken immigration system."

Watch the speech LIVE here at 7:00 p.m. CT.

More Immigration Announcement Headlines


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