The Farm Foundation Forum held a panel discussion today to address food and agriculture issues likely to be faced by the next administration. Ken Barbic, senior director of federal government affairs, participated in the event and focused on labor issues.
In his remarks, Barbic outlined the need for immigration reform and the industry’s policy priorities, including legal status for existing workers and a new market-orientated visa program to replace the bureaucratic, costly and challenged H-2A program.
Barbic also laid out the consequences for the industry and the country if nothing is done. He cited our current and expanding fresh produce trade deficit, as well as additional food and national security concerns we will face if more growers move operations to other countries and/or if more produce is imported into the U.S.
Barbic said that inaction on immigration reform may cost Americans jobs because growers may leave the United States for less expensive and less burdensome regulatory conditions elsewhere. He also noted that while immigration reform is one of the most contentious topics of this election cycle, there is less disagreement on the issues as one might think based on what we read in the media.
In reference to the current national labor shortages, Barbic said growers will use more technology once it becomes available to mechanize, modernize and make their operations more environmentally and fiscally efficient.
Other panelists included:
- Daniella Taveau, Regulatory and Global Trade Strategist for King & Spalding
- Craig Thorn, Partner, DTB Associates LLP.
- Dan Keppen, Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance
Farm Foundation President Constance Cullman moderated the discussion.
We will post an audio link of the discussion once the Farm Foundation Forum makes it available to Western Growers.
For more information, contact Ken Barbic at (202) 296-0191.
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