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California's bread basket vs. water bucket


Rep. David Valadao (CA-21) made his pitch for increasing immigration in  "Reforming Immigration to Protect America's Breadbasket" (Roll Call, February 27, 2014):




Our country must reform our broken immigration system to provide our farmers and ranchers with the trained, reliable and legal workforce they require. We must put in place a worker visa program that provides our agriculture industry with the resources they need. Agriculture provisions of any reform legislation must take into consideration the needs of both year-round and seasonal crops and also put in place a flexible visa cap to ensure labor needs are met....

....Without these reforms to our nations immigration system, Americans everywhere will feel the consequences. Less and less fruit, vegetables and milk will be grown close to home. More importantly, the cost of these goods will rise, making it even more difficult for parents to feed their families or for schools to provide children with nutritious meals....

There is already a "worker visa program" for the agriculture industry. The H-2a visa program has no cap. Many complain the program is "cumbersome" but it could be reformed without doubling immigration and legalizing millions of illegal workers . The ag lobby has never thrown its weight behind H-2a reform. Big Ag has hitched its wagon to comprehensive legalization and immigration expansion instead. Rep. Valadao's op-ed reflects the views of agri-business in his district.

Stoop labor is one of the few jobs in the U.S. where wages and working conditions are so unattractive that Americans don't make up a majority of the workforce. That doesn't mean there is a labor shortage. If there were a labor shortage, wages should be increasing. But as John Carney of CNBC has reported, even labor-intensive crop industries are not seeing wage increases that would be consistent with labor shortages.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

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