Immigration Reform Critical for Agriculture
By Kenneth Dierschke
Immigration is the poster case for the dysfunction that grips our federal government.
A former Texas governor said not long ago that “family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande,” and that as long as “moms and dads in Mexico couldn’t feed their children in their own country,” they would come to the U.S. It will take decisive action to stop the flow of illegal immigration and decisive action is something that we can’t seem to manage.
Here in Texas we have more at stake than a lot of other places. It’s true that we have a lot of labor-intensive agriculture and we need workers. It’s also true that Texas shares more than 1,200 miles of international border with Mexico. We have a lot of incentive to control our southern border.
It is critical that we devise a legal status for the 12 million or so undocumented workers that are presently in the United States and working. In my opinion, the combination of a legal status for those here, an electronic verification system and a worker visa program for the future will relieve the pressure that causes our current porous border. That’s why I like the proposals in the U.S. Senate. The bill they are writing recognizes that it will be impossible to stem the flow of undocumented workers unless we deal with the incentives that lure them here. That’s border security.
Part of agriculture needs labor. We are price takers, meaning that we must take the market’s prevailing price. We cannot raise our prices to compete with construction, food service or other industries. We seek good, hard-working and reliable labor, a relationship with willing employers and willing workers. The Senate immigration reform plan is a start to getting us there.
(Kenneth Dierschke is a cotton and grain farmer, and president of Texas Farm Bureau.)
© 2013 American Farm Bureau Federation