Date: Feb 26, 2013

Irvine, Calif. Statement From Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif from his written testimony submitted to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, for the Tuesday  hearing, “From H-2A to a Workable Agricultural Guest Worker Program:”

“We need a new model for our future agriculture worker program. Even among those who have used H-2A, there is agreement that this program is broken beyond repair. In order to move us closer to a solution to meet our labor needs, we must consider a new approach to an employee visa program: one that resembles the current labor market.

A workable program would also provide farm workers with the same protections as U.S. workers with respect to all employment related laws and employment taxes. Thus there would be no reason for an employer to prefer a temporary foreign worker over a U.S. worker.

The program would include incentives for workers to return home after the terms of their visa or work obligations are completed. Additionally, workers’ visa status would be synced with an E-Verify system, guaranteeing that someone with a visa to work in agriculture would not be able to gain legal employment in another sector.

It is also imperative for this program to address, not only the need for future employees, but also the need to retain our experienced employees, the people who are already here. Our farms could not function without these valuable farm employees; yet most work without proper immigration status.

There is not a person in our country that is not connected to this problem. If you eat fresh produce, drink milk, grill steaks or purchase plants for your yard, you are benefiting from the hard work of a foreign agricultural worker.

I urge the Members of this Committee who are concerned about the survival of agriculture in your states to work together and reach out to your colleagues to craft a workable bipartisan solution to this important economic issue.”

About Western Growers:
Since 1926, we have represented local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona and California. Our members provide half the nation’s fresh fruits and vegetables including a third of America’s fresh organic produce. Some also farm throughout the U.S. and in other countries so people have year-round access to nutritious food. For generations we have provided variety and healthy choices as the first line of defense against obesity and disease. We grow the best medicine in the world.™

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