Farmers and workers in the agriculture industry have been tracking immigration proposals made by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has been negotiating a resolution to the agriculture issue. For states such as Missouri that rely heavily on the farming industry, the resolution which is supposed to occur within the next day or two will have a huge impact on their businesses.
Farm worker unions have been at odds with the agriculture industry over worker wages and how many visas should be offered in a new program to bring agriculture workers to the U.S. Despite the struggle between the two groups, Feinstein has been able to reach a tentative deal that should smooth the way for the immigration bill to be released later this week. “There’s a tentative agreement on a number of things, and we’re waiting to see if it can get wrapped up,” Feinstein said in a brief interview at the Capitol. I’m very hopeful. The train is leaving the station. We need a bill.” With the immigration reform bill being hurried to pass soon, millions of undocumented workers will be on a path to citizenship which will also allow tens of thousands of high and low skilled foreign workers to come to the U.S. on visa programs.
Senators have been debating the new immigration bill for a substantial amount of time since at least 50 percent of the nation’s two million farm workers are here without proper documents. Farmers need a better way to be able to hire laborers legally without exploiting workers and giving workers protections and a way to earn permanent residence. Because the agriculture industry is so time sensitive, senators plan to offer a speeded-up pathway to citizenship for farm workers who are already in the country and have worked in the industry for at least two years. They also want to create a new visa program to bring foreign agriculture workers to the U.S. Farmers and agriculture workers have mentioned the sticking points have been the wages and visa caps.
The uncertainty of the structure concerns both sides and talks between growers and agriculture reopened. There are new proposed numbers set for wages and the visa caps are set according to the economic needs based on the year. Growers emphasize that nothing is certain yet and they still need to sign off on the proposal. “We are working diligently on the final details on the important details of the wage and cap and are hopeful, but have not agreed to anything,” said Kristi Boswell, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
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