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Immigration highlights farmer meetings

Fruit HarvesterFruit HarvesterA delegation of California farmers, ranchers and Farm Bureau leaders will focus on federal immigration and farm policy this week as they meet with Congressional leaders and administration officials in Washington, D.C.

The California Farm Bureau delegation arrived in Washington Tuesday for two days of meetings. Farmers said they would provide firsthand examples pf difficulties they have had in hiring and maintaining skilled workers to harvest crops and manage livestock.

The delegation will urge representatives to take action as soon as possible to avoid labor shortages that affect the ability to harvest food for American tables.

“Peak harvest season is approaching and California farmers and ranchers will depend on 400,000 employees to cultivate and harvest fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, livestock and other products,” said Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau, in a release. “Another year without a workable solution to immigration policy further jeopardizes our ability to provide the nation’s food supply.”

Wenger and other Farm bureau members say farmers depend on an immigrant workforce and that immigration reform should include both a solution for the existing workforce and create a viable visa program for future workers.

As congress works on federal farm policy, the Farm Bureau group encourages passage of a new farm bill that includes programs to benefit the environment, communities and the agricultural economy.

“For the farm bill to be successful, it must include components we see as vital,” Wenger said. “It must help farmers tackle invasive pests and diseases, while opening doors for farmers to sell California-grown crops to new markets and creating more access to fruits, nuts and vegetables in nutrition programs.”

The bill must also promote conservation programs that help working agricultural land improve air, land and water quality, Wenger said.