Monday, 22 July 2024

Scully's remarks at AgJOBS legislation introduction


With me today are several dozen growers, producers, and their representatives. I specifically want to recognize Barry Bedwell of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League, Luawanna Hallstrom representing the California Farm Bureau Federation, Glen Goto of the Raisin Bargaining Association, and Julian Heron representing Western Growers. We speak for thousands of American farmers who should not have to endure what we endured during this past harvest.

This past year we in Lake County had a full crop of high quality Bartlett pears. Unfortunately, our wonderful harvest was not to be. We started the harvest with less than half the approximately 900 pickers that our county needs to get the crop in on time. Capable pickers were nowhere to be found. We exhausted the local labor to just keep our packinghouses running. After terrible sleepless nights we had to accept that help was not on the way.

Each year farmers gamble with the weather, the markets, and government regulations. Now a huge labor shortage forced us to decide which orchards to abandon. These were gut wrenching decisions. Between the pears left hanging on the trees and the fruit that had to be dumped because it was overripe, we lost almost 25% of our Lake County crop.

You saw the sad photos of Lake County pears rotting in the sun. Those piles of pears represented unpaid mortgages, unmet goals, and dashed hopes, and economic loss to our community. I still feel the ache in my heart as I watched much of our county’s crop, over 26 million pounds of beautiful fruit, go to waste.

Other crops throughout our state and nation suffered serious labor shortages, in spite of the fact that many of the production areas had significantly less than normal crops. What will happen to those growers when their production returns to normal? I fear that we are the canary in their coal mine.

I have a simple question: Do we want our family farmers to continue to supply us with the safest, most diverse, most abundant food supply in the world, or do we want to become dependent on foreign food as we are on foreign oil? If we don’t get a legal way to get skilled workers to perform jobs that most Americans won’t do, our food production will be outsourced to foreign lands. Family farmers will be forced to sell their properties for development, changing the face of our rural communities for all time. This process has already begun in many areas of California.

Congress must act, and act soon. Despite past efforts Congress has failed time and again to pass a usable agricultural worker program.

Now it is time for Congress to recognize the important part seasonal foreign workers play on farms across the land. We need to provide a path toward legalization for the foreign workers who have toiled for years on our farms, dairies, nurseries, and other agricultural operations. These are honorable hard working people who deserve recognition and respect for the valuable contribution they make to our society. We also need a dependable way to bring in sufficient seasonal laborers who can return to their homes when the job is done. The AgJOBS bill meets all these needs.

Senators Feinstein and Craig and Kennedy, Representatives Berman and Cannon and Radanovich, your efforts to enact the AgJOBS bill have kept us from the brink of despair. I thank all who have toiled to address this cause. This time we MUST be successful.

We cannot go on like this. Time is marching toward the next harvest. Our crops are growing as we speak. This legislation is long overdue. We implore Congress to pass it now and prevent our sad story from replaying itself all across the land.



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07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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