WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 14, 2009) – Western Growers officials today are applauding California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressmen Howard Berman (D-CA) and Adam Putnam (R-FL) for reintroducing AgJOBS in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectfully.
“We commend Senator Feinstein and Congressmen Berman and Putnam for showing tremendous political courage. The current economic crisis has only magnified what our industry has been saying for years; despite record unemployment in parts of this country, we are not seeing American workers willing to take jobs as field laborers,” said Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif.
AgJOBS is a two part bill. The first part would allow workers to qualify for temporary resident status provided they can prove they were substantially employed in U.S. agriculture during the past two years. Such workers would eventually be permitted to apply for permanent residency status provided they can prove that they have performed extensive agricultural work in the U.S. after the bill’s enactment. The second part restructures and reforms the current H-2A temporary agricultural worker program.
“This is more than an immigration issue; it’s an economic issue,” Nassif said. “California agriculture is a $37 billion industry. Without the passage and implementation of AgJOBS, California and the nation will continue to export farms along with the field jobs and the three to four upstream and downstream jobs that are created in the economy.”
Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose members from Arizona and California grow, pack and ship ninety percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and seventy five percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation’s fresh produce.