Producers and representatives from various statewide grower organizations gathered recently to discuss immigration reform at FFVA's Maitland office with members of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's district staff.
The informational discussion focused on the unique needs of agricultural employers as talks continue in Congress on a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law.
Rubio has taken the lead on the issue, laying out plans of his own for legislation. Susan Fernandez and Mercedes Ayala Pierce from Rubio's Orlando office listened to comments from growers and provided details on the senator's framework for legislation. Central Florida Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, also was a guest.
FFVA members talked about their workforce needs and the pros and cons of the current H-2A guest worker program.
See related article:
• Produce groups join others to support immigration reform
Mike Carlton, FFVA’s director of labor relations, discussed work being done on the issue in Washington on behalf of the industry by the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, a broad alliance of ag organizations from across the country. (FFVA is a founding member).
The staffers also heard from Georgia grower Bill Brim, past president of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Association. Brim discussed the economic losses experienced by producers and the industry as a result of Georgia's tough immigration law passed in 2010.
Although this year presents the best opportunity since 2007 for immigration reform, there is still heavy lifting ahead for all interested groups – agriculture, the general business community, and farmworker groups – to reach a solution.
A call for young leaders
Are you an up-and-coming leader who wants to be more involved in FFVA and Florida specialty crop agriculture? You may be eligible for Class 3 of FFVA’s Emerging Leader Development Program.
Beginning April 1, the application process will be open to individuals ages 25 to 40 from an FFVA producer or trade associate member’s organization or family. Applicants must be working in or pursuing a career in Florida’s specialty crop industry.