Imperial County Assemblyman Proposes Bill To Address Farmworker Shortage
>>> One of the consequences of the ongoing battles over Dr. in immigration reform is being felt by farmers in California and across the nation. The number of migrant farmworkers have fallen off dramatically. Today a bipartisan group of California assembly members have announced new legislation to address the shortage. It is called a California resident worker program and economic stabilization act. Joining me now is one of the co-authors of the legislation assembly member Eduardo Garcia who represents Imperial and Eastern side counties. Assembly member welcome. >> Thank you for having me. >> Briscoe what a girl is telling you about the shortage of workers? How is it affecting the business. >> For the last 10 years growers have been sharing with many of us who represent rural California this shortage of labor that they have experienced. Depending on the information, whether it be from the federal government labor departments and states, the numbers as low as 50,000 and in some cases 100,000 labor drops in the agricultural communities. This is significant when we are talking about the state with the fifth largest economy in the world that really is dependent on the agricultural economy to drive our engine. And of course the contributions it makes to the entire country. >> Our crops being left unharvested because of the shortage? >> Yes in different types of crops are having to be planted because of the lack of labor availability. Therefore increasing costs, having to ensure that other types of foods and vegetables are grown elsewhere. We know that in California and in this country we take great pride in growing things locally and all of the safety and public health measures they go into those efforts, we want to make sure that we continue to grow the economy in the sectors. We cannot do it without having adequate labor force in place. >> What would you propose legislation do?, Our legislation establishes --'s >> Members of various stakeholders including the federal government can identify roles and responsibilities of the state and the government in implementing the resident program. And I say resident program because these are individuals and California residents who are working in these industries, but unpermitted. By this worker coming together we can develop a model. The workgroup was serve as a guide and a baseline for the working group's discussions with the federal government. In other words establishing the program collectively, looking at the economic uncertainties that labor shortages bring. Not just a California but across the country to these very important sectors of our economy. >> How would a resident worker program differ from a guest worker program or even the old preceptor program? >> The resident program, exactly what it means. It is people who are living here in California working in California and contributing to California's economy. Versus a guest worker program that would be bringing people to the state and the other program that was similar to that. What we are trying to ensure is that the people who are working in these industries today have a certain level of certainty and that this immigration heighten approach that's been taken by the current administration, does not destabilize our economies and sectors in the service industry. That is the first step. >> Can California implement a program like this on its own? Doesn't any federal approval? >> Absolutely, that is why we are looking at working closely with our federal partners and establishing a resident program that will be beneficial to the economy of California into this country. As was mentioned time again, many farmers throughout the state have constantly said they have labor shortages. The fact is they increase the pay, they have improved tremendously on providing housing and healthcare services, but we just cannot attract enough people to work in this area. We are hoping we can stabilize this issue by establishing this California resident program, people who are working in the sectors already, and begin to ensure that there is growth in the sectors that are extremely important to the economy of our country and certainly in California. >> There are two Democrats and two Republicans sponsoring the legislation, that does not happen these days. Why do you think this group came together?, It is not a partisan issue. We are -- >> We are looking at this as California being at risk without stabilizing the workforce. We need to ensure that we can continue to grow the economies. In my district the input and output of the agricultural economy is close to $4 billion. It is a significantly important sector for us in our region. The fact is, we have several legislators who represent rural parts of California whose economies are depended heavily on the agricultural industry and the service industry. Irrespective of our differences and party affiliations, we believe the California's economy is at risk, without ensuring some labor stability for the sectors. At the end of the day, we know for fact we have other members of the legislature lighting up to support the measure. >> I have been speaking with California assembly member Eduardo Garcia. Thank you so much for joining us. >> Thank you for your time.
Farms across the country rely on laborers who are in the country illegally.
Between 50 percent and 70 percent of farmworkers in the U.S. are in the country illegally, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
A bipartisan group of California assembly members announced Wednesday new legislation to address the shortage in the state. It's called the California Resident Worker Program and Economic Stabilization Act.
Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, who represents Imperial County and eastern Riverside County, is one of the co-authors of the legislation.
Garcia will join Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss the proposed bill.