Current immigration policy is threatening access to quality, affordable food in this nation, DFA Board Chairman Randy Mooney asserted during a U.S. Department of Agriculture forum on comprehensive immigration reform today in Kansas City.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was the keynote speaker at the event, hosted at the American Royal building in Kansas City's historic West Bottoms district. Former Kansas City mayor and current Congressman Emanuel Cleaver also voiced support for immigration policy reform.
"Because of America's farmers, we enjoy abundant, safe and affordable food in this country," Mooney said. "In order to ensure that continues, we need Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. For the dairy industry - an industry where there is no such thing as a day off - there is no viable visa program to provide a legal, stable and knowledgeable workforce that ensures milk and other dairy products get into the dairy case, our lunch programs and more."
Mooney emphasized that the need for qualified workers is an issue bigger than dairy, pointing to specialty crops such as lettuce, strawberries and apples that also require labor that is not desirable to domestic workers. Similarly, a shortage of workers affects crop farmers, directly for their own farms and for farmers who buy their product.
"Without immigration reform, we're making it more difficult for farmers to harvest their crops," Mooney said. "As a result, we are going to make it more difficult for consumers to access affordable food. We could even risk allowing more of our food production to move overseas."
"We are fortunate to have a food system that allows us to deliver safe, quality, affordable food to our families," Mooney said in closing. "Immigration reform is important for all of agriculture, for rural America, for consumers and for the nation's economy."
Mooney's sentiments were echoed by Secretary Vilsack. "We are blessed by the most productive, most innovative and most hard-working farmers and ranchers," Vilsack said. "American agriculture is the greatest in the world, but we risk that if we don't have certainty in our farm policy and we don't have comprehensive immigration reform."
Additional participants in the event included the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas city; Kansas City Chamber of Commerce; Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform; and Kansas Business Coalition for Immigration Reform.