U.S. Ag Secretary: Immigration reform key for Fla. industry

Anthony Clark, The Gainesville Sun

July 31, 2013

Comprehensive immigration reform is critical to secure the workforce needed by Florida’s multibillion-dollar agricultural industry and would benefit the broader economy, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an interview with The Gainesville Sun.

Vilsack has been on a media blitz with reporters in farm states to emphasize the need to get something done on the immigration reform bill before the House goes on a monthlong recess at the end of the week.

The Senate passed a bipartisan reform bill in June to secure the borders and provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the country illegally. Republican leadership in the House plans to split the legislation into five or six component parts for a possible vote in October, said U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“The House may have thoughts to improve the bill. That’s what the process is about,” Vilsack said. “But we can’t get to that point until we have competing bills. If the House has to do it in bite-sized pieces, they need to get it done. I don’t see much in the way of floor action.”

Having enough agricultural workers is a problem in states such as Florida that have a lot of fruit and vegetable production that relies more heavily on noncitizen labor, he said.

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