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Immigration reform needed to ensure continued health of U.S. agriculture, says Vilsack. Claims reform would lead to job production, deficit reduction, border security. Pushes for House vote.
Saying that the next several months are crucial for chances of immigration reform passing Congress, the Obama administration has begun ramping up efforts to push the issue.
Over a year ago, the Senate passed a bill addressing immigration. Despite pushes from conservative business groups and farm groups the House has not followed suit, although in recent weeks leadership has indicated it could move on legislation.
On Monday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was again beating the drum for comprehensive immigration reform during a trip to California.
“This is an extremely important topic for American agriculture and there is no more important state to American agriculture than California,” said Vilsack during a press call. “Over 81,000 farms in California help make it the Number One ag-producing state in the country. The value of products produced in the state annually often exceeds $33 billion.
“It is a farm economy that is very much dependent on farmworkers. They work extraordinarily hard under challenging conditions.
“Seventy-three percent of those who work on farms in the state aren’t citizens of the United States. Many are here in an appropriate, documented fashion. Some are not.”
The Senate bill, had it passed the House and been signed by the President, “would have already started to produce thousands of new jobs in California. It’s estimated that the Senate bill would have produced almost 10,000 additional jobs and increase California farm income $500 million.”