Michigan ag leaders to rally for immigration reform

10/09/2013 05:11:00 PM
Tom Karst

 A group of Michigan agriculture leaders and United Fresh Produce Association president Tom Stenzel will take part in an immigration rally Oct. 10 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Event organizer Denise Donohue said the immigration rally is supported by Michigan United, a coalition of faith and social justice organizations in the state.

“We’re just trying to bring attention, during the harvest, to the widespread lack of labor across Michigan agriculture,” she said. Producers of more than a dozen different crops will describe in a paper to be released at the event about the effect of labor shortages on their harvest and business operations this year, she said.

“We’re going to have pictures of tomatoes rotting in the field, apples that have fallen on the ground this year, asparagus that got too tall to be saleable,” she said. “All that happened in Michigan this year because we didn’t have enough pickers.”

Donohue said Michigan agriculture accounts for more than $91 million and employs 1 million people. Half of the state’s farm-gate value is accounted for by specialty crops, she said which are often hand-picked, trimmed and packed by migrant workers native to Mexico and Latin America.

Besides Stenzel, other speakers at the 11 a.m. event at the Christian Reformed Church’s national headquarters include:

 

  • Don Coe, Commissioner of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development and managing partner of Black Star Farms, a commercial vineyard and winery in Suttons Bay;
  • Diane Smith, Executive Director, Michigan Apple Committee in DeWitt; and
  • Fred Leitz, Eastern Vice President of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, a trustee of US Apple Association and grower of strawberries, apples and vegetables at Leitz Farms, LLC, in Sodus, Michigan.



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