Recently, the Save America’s Food and Economy (SAFE) Coalition held a press conference right here in San Luis Obispo to bring awareness to a potentially devastating bill making its way through Congress.
It’s called the Legal Workforce Act, and in its current form, it has the potential to wipe out farms not only in California, but also throughout the country. At the very least, food prices will spike and we could see an abundance of food shortages. Family farms everywhere will likely shut down and we will see more and more of our food coming from places like China and Mexico.
We should take note what has happened in Georgia, where a similar law was enacted earlier this year and already the agriculture in the state has seen $75 million worth of losses, according to the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development. Vegetables are literally left rotting on the vine there while farm labor seeks refuge in other states.
You see, the Legal Workforce Act will change the current E-Verify system, preventing farmers from hiring desperately needed immigrant workers to do agricultural work that, frankly, no one else is willing to do.
While some may say this is a triumph for the state’s outrageous unemployment rate, the reality is that agricultural work is highly skilled, intense and seasonal labor that requires continuous relocation. These are not working conditions for the majority of the un-employed in our state.
I urge Congress to find a sensible and long-term solution to the immigration issue, but I also ask that it realize the farming and agriculture community is a unique and important aspect of the debate that must be addressed specifically. Failing to do so will leave grapes and other crops for the birds.
Bill Grant is a member of the Save America’s Food and Economy (SAFE) Coalition and a vineyard owner in Paso Robles.