A central Illinois dairy farmer says he may decide to quit farming if Congress doesn't enact comprehensive immigration reform soon. During a conference call with reporters, Mark Erdman of Chenoa says not having a reliable workforce limits productivity. He points to an Hispanic ex-employee that got caught up in the system.
"You could look at his time clock and he was here within five minutes of every day. Then he went home to see his family and now he can't get a visa, and we can't get him back. It's really disheartening. The reform needs to be done so the good people can come back to the states and work."
Erdman says he's relying heavily on relatives to milk the cows but needs a larger pool of skilled workers to increase productivity. He says if he's not able to grow his operation, it's more cost-effective to shut down. Bloomington-based Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert says crops are often wasted because there's not a large, dependable work force to harvest them.
"Inaction in the form of enforcement-only strategy will probably increase the price of fruit and vegetables by 6% a year by the end of the decade."
A comprehensive immigration bill passed the U.S. Senate a year ago, but has stalled in the House, where some lawmakers want a package of smaller measures. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says a package would be okay because it would allow for a House-Senate conference on the issue. He says having immigration reform would result in a 3% increase in the gross domestic product over the next ten years and boost the tax base and social security fund, and would result in $850 billion in deficit reduction over 20 years.
(photo credit: Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project)
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