The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Local News

April 18, 2013

Farmers to have labor help

Medina Journal-Register — New York farmers, especially those in the dairy industry, will have a reliable labor force under sweeping changes to the nation’s immigration laws proposed in an 844-page bipartisan bill.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Wednesday the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 would allow for the creation of a new visa program that will allow farmers to hire year-round workers and end reliance on illegal immigrant laborers.

The legislation was filed at 2 a.m. Wednesday by the so-called “Gang of Eight,” a group that includes Schumer, as well as U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin, Robert Menendez, Michael Bennet, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake.

The agricultural industry is on the rise in New York, especially with dairy and apples, Schumer said. New York has become a national leader in apples and Greek yogurt, but dairy farms have a problem with the current temporary visa program. The program is only for seasonal workers, a problem because dairy farms need workers year-round.

Dairy farmers are generally not able to hire foreign workers through the existing guest-worker program for agriculture because milk production is year-round. The new guest worker W-2 and W-3 visa program, will ensure that our dairy farmers have a reliable, year-round supply of labor, Schumer said.

The bill will also ease the labor shortage for northeastern apple and vegetable growers, making sure fruit and vegetables don’t go unpicked because there isn’t anyone to pick them. Schumer said a year-round supply of labor for farmers, ensure that New York apple and fruit growers can be more competitive on a national scale.

“The number one compliant I hear from farms is they can’t get enough workers,” he said.

The New York Farm Bureau supported the legislation, said New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton. If the bill becomes law, farms won’t have to hire illegal immigrants, a practice farmers would rather not do, Norton said.

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