Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Opinion

June 27, 2013

LETTER: Why farmers need immigration reform now

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — For the first time in years, it is exciting to see real movement on immigration reform in Congress that could open the door for greater stability and growth on our family farms in New York. There is a strong need to have a reliable, legal workforce in our dairy barns and fields during critical times of the growing season.

Unfortunately, some farms have already chosen to move away from planting labor intensive crops like fruits and vegetables or held off on expanding their dairy operations, in part, because of immigration concerns. For any business to grow, you need employees to do the work. However, we have seen authorities detain some employees who had presented what looked to be legal documentation. Ripe tomatoes in the field or a cow ready for the milking parlor simply can’t be put on hold for the time that it takes to resolve the situation or hire new employees. This uncertainty surrounding the labor force limits job opportunities for all New Yorkers who depend on agricultural related businesses.

Immigration reform is also about providing stronger border security, and it would give people who have been working hard in this country for years an opportunity to come out of the shadows and truly contribute to our society.

I appreciate the leadership of Senator Charles Schumer on this important issue, but he can’t do it alone. Please write or call your lawmakers in Washington, and tell them we need immigration reform for the betterment of all of agriculture and the rural economy.

Jim Bittner, President Niagara County Farm Bureau

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