A consortium of community advocates, political leaders and farmers launched a campaign this week called "Save America’s Food and Economy," (SAFE) to protect farms and agriculture from the impact of H.R. 2164, otherwise known as the “Legal Workforce Act."
SAFE is a new and historic public awareness campaign complete with website, social media tools and an extensive grassroots operation. It represents the combined efforts of the agricultural industry encouraging support for a long-term, stable and legal farm workforce for America’s 2.2 million farms. Saving farms also saves countless local communities, small businesses and families that rely on the agricultural industry as an economic lifeline. The agriculture sector accounts for nearly 2% of national Gross Domestic Product and supports 15% of the economy as a whole.
Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), H.R. 2164 mandates all U.S. businesses, including farms, use the electronic E-Verify database managed by the Department of Homeland Security. SAFE, fighting to secure the future of America’s farms and foods supply, argues that the bill must be modified to accommodate experienced migrant farm workers. The campaign supports the need for farms to hire experienced guest workers – who comprise more than 80% of America’s agricultural workforce. These skilled, seasonal farm workers are the backbone of U.S. agriculture, and their labor sustains hundreds of thousands of farm-dependent U.S. jobs belonging to workers who would also be displaced if H.R. 2164 were enacted.
“We understand our representatives in Washington are struggling to find a solution to our immigration problem, but exporting our nation’s food supply and the jobs that go with it is not the solution,” said Western Growers Chairman Tom Deardorff of Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard, Calif. “We need a sensible solution that protects our economy, our domestic food supply and the skilled men and women who make our food system the most efficient, safe and healthy food supply in the world. Without a workable solution, local economies will crumble, our food security will be lost, the environment will suffer and the family farms that are the fabric of our society will be lost.”
In Georgia, where state lawmakers recently instituted a new law mandating farm compliance with state and federal eligibility requirements such as E-Verify, the state's agricultural industry lost nearly three quarters of its workforce and over $300 million in revenue.
"The failed program in Georgia gives us a glimpse of what will happen here in Michigan and, in a much larger scale, to America's food, farms, and economy if a similar initiative is approved on the national level," said Julia Rothwell, Chair of the U.S. Apple Association. "We have to act now and fast before this bill moves any further.”
Save America's Food and Economy is an organization advocating America's need for a stable and legal farm workforce, greater food security and independence over our food supply while keeping jobs and economic activity right here in the United States. To learn more, please visit the group’s Web site.
Source: Save America's Food and Economy