The home building industry was one of the hardest hit with the onset of the current recession, and the impact sent an abundance of workers from the construction site to the farms. According to a report in the St. Petersburg Times, farmers in suburban Tampa’s Plant City saw no shortage of farm workers this spring despite the efforts of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) who proposed the AgJOBS Amnesty late last week.
Plant City is known as the nation’s “Strawberry Capital” and just a few years ago Carl Grooms, owner of Fancy Farms, said there wasn’t enough help for his toughest job of planting and picking strawberries. But since the housing collapse, things have been different. Grooms filled his 300 daily slots this spring without a problem, and often had 20-30 extra workers show up every day just in case there were no-shows. Grooms also said in the St. Petersburg Times article, workers were coming from Orlando, which is more than 60 miles away.
Plant City is in Florida’s 12th district represented by Rep. Adam Putnam who was one of the original sponsors the House version of the AgJOBS Amnesty bill that was reintroduced into Congress last week. Sen. Dianne Feinstein sponsors the Senate version of the bill. The Senate version has 16 cosponsors, and 26 have signed onto the House version.
The title of Sen. Feinstein’s bill is “To improve agricultural job opportunities, benefits, and security for aliens in the United States,” but with nearly 14 million people out of work, this is a bad time to introduce an amnesty for illegal aliens when legal immigrants are having a tough time finding steady work in the fields. And Rep. Putnam doesn’t even know what the situation is in his own district.
The United States already allows for migrant agricultural workers through the H-2A visa program. Currently, there are about 30,000 H-2A visas issued by USCIS.
For more on this story, see the St. Petersburg Times.