The way U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack sees it, the issue of immigration reform boils down to a simple choice: we can either import workers or we can import food.
Vilsack was the luncheon keynote speaker at the annual spring meeting of the North American Agricultural Journalists in Washington, D.C., last week. He told journalists that he thinks importing workers is a far better option, both for the American economy and national security.
The Secretary said migration is a common theme in American agriculture: the outward migration of young people from rural areas to jobs in urban areas, the inward migration of workers from other countries to fill the labor void in rural America and the increasing movement of finished products from American farms and processing plants to consumers overseas.
IMPORT WORKERS OR FOOD? USDA Secretary Vilsack spoke to a group of agricultural journalists last week about the future of immigration for the ag industry.
Vilsack said he sees an additional migration of crops to the north or to the south because of changing climate conditions.
"Americans should not take it for granted that there will always be American-grown food for their table," he said. "We have to make a commitment to making sure that the workers are there to help with the planting, tending and harvesting of those crops."
He said up to 70% of the workers on American farms today do not have legal documentation to be working in the country and that providing those workers the opportunity to keep their jobs, stay in this country and eventually become citizens is essential.