tv Agriculture Secretary Testifies on Immigrant Farmworkers CSPAN July 23, 2021 4:57pm-8:00pm EDT
named that by many of his friends and journalists. in 2007, two years before he died at the age of 78, his autobiography was published about his 50 years as a reporter, television personality, author and conservative political commentator. he appeared on notes about time about his book, the prince's darkness. >> are on this episode of book notes plus, listen at c-span.org/podcast or wherever you get your podcast. ♪♪ >> agriculture secretary tom phil sucked testifying about immigrant farmworkers before a senate judiciary committee hearing following testimony by secretary phil sucked the committee heard from farm owners and favor union the challenges facing farmworkers and agricultural industry. this front three hours.
>> come to order. the iowa caucus is going to break up for a moment here. secretary, thank you for being here officially, what from you. thank you. today% holding the first hearing and a decade of the need for path to citizenship for our nations immigrant farmworkers. i am happy to makeor this not oy a full committee hearing but too acknowledge the chairman of our immigration subcommittee, alex padilla integral part of this conversation part of this hearing. during today's hearing, the committee will hear from a wide variety of americans support legalizing immigrant farm workers including farmers, farmworker advocates and secretary of agricultural, tom vilsack. you know this is the first time agriculture testified before the judiciary committee and more than 20 years. i don't know what that secretary said but we are glad to have you
here today and thanks for your historical appearance. i have a little video that precedes this and i would like to ask that it be shown, it reflects the reality of the work are immigrant farmworkers do to keep food on the table. ... farmworkers face tough conditions even in good times but during a pandemic they
redeemed essential and kept working even though many lack basic safety net they need it if they got sick. people who literally kept the country fed. >> farmers take their own lives and a lot of farmers deal with really high stress. >> if you think about it -- some workers are trying to cope with almonds and economic hardship even while clearing deportation. >> workers from mexico were stuck at the border. >> back cause him and his family their entire asparagus crop for the year. >> they are lack of labor that we have in this country. >> it's essential to be protected fromat deportation.
[inaudible] >> they are putting food on your dinner table. back wherever we go i see the people eating the food. >> my parents and i have not stopped working in the field. agriculture in general deserves reform. long-term labor is the first in american solutions that help american agriculture and its workers did this food supply depends on these workers. >> during this pandemic we have all -- there's an immigrant worker who plays it critical role. the work is essential and it's never easy. our nations farms factories and in food processing plants can also be dangerous.
i know about that probably more than some senators. back when i was working my way through college a few years ago i worked for meatpacking company and e. st. louis illinois now owned by john morrell. i was paid $3.65 an hour which was a pretty good rate. i stood elbow to elbow with the other workers on the assembly line as thousands of pounds of meat came marching nonstop down the conveyor belt. in four years i came to work the worst jobs in the packinghouse. under a union contract an eight hour workday meant processing 1760 hogs, 220 an hour. speeding up the overhead chain linemen to building up numbers in the caseho of regular breakdowns for the work was hot exhausting and dangerous. in my home state of illinois the jobs that these meat and poultry
processing plants are still exhausting and dangerous. the next time you put a pork loin on the grill or chicken tenders in your kid's hands just remember our foreign-born workforce had a lot to do with the fact that you have that opportunity in the decade since i left the assembly line food processing continues to be difficult and dangerous especially because of covid-19. over the past year the workers he kept our grocery store shelves stocked endured immense hardship or the pandemic as torrance are a nation's factories as well of us our farms. in these work places social distancing is not an option. whether they are packing meter picking picking berries the workers who supply our food tend to work inr confined crowded spaces.ho many have been unable to protect themselves from exposure to the coronavirus. the environmental working group farmworkers in more than a dozen states do not have access to ppe or covid test thing and it's not uncommon for these workers to be
transported to the field in tightly packed trucks and housed in tight quarters but all of these factors have led to a devastating outcome. more c than half a million ad workers have contracted covid-19 hindering the first year the pandemic more than 7000 farmworkers died of covid-19 but sadly the coronavirus is one of many workplace hazards these workers face. they handle dangerous machinery and the experience repetitive strain injuries. they are regularly exposed to pesticides and now we see our western states facing swelterinv heat. farmworkers are 35 times more likely than the average worker to die from heat exposure. these workers understand the risks of working on a farm. many of them face another risk, one that is a direct result of our broken immigration system, the lead at -- the threat of deportation but half of our nation's 2.5 million farmworkers are undocumented. these workers had up to the field every morning to pick the fruits and visuals that feed our
families but despite this essential work they are at risk of being separated from their families read one of these workers was on the video vincent reyes. the sent a reyes is a daca recipient who is studying robotics engineering at bakersfield college in california. outside of class who works on a farm in theic central valley and he's a member of the united farm workers. the sent a is the son of farmworkers. his parents are undocumented. each morning before they head to the field there's one brief moment they are facing a 14 hour shift many times in the parents hugged the sent a twice because they never know for the last day they will see each other. with the pandemic he and his family were unable to shelter in place because they are designated. essential critical infrastructure workers by the previous administration. even though they make essential to our country and
our economy his parents still live every day in fear of deportation. it is an embarrassment that this great nation allows this injustice to continue. we can change it. we can pass legislation that will not only keep hard-working families like vicente's families together. earlier this year the house passed the farm workforce modernization act on a bipartisan basis. this landmark legislation is the product of an historic agreement between farmers and farmworkers. it would fundamentally change the lives of hundreds of thousands of farmworkers who came to our rescue during the darkest days of o the pandemic d would allow them to continue doing their essential work without fear of deportation. many t agriculture stakeholders from dairy to specialty crops to livestock have said they are facing serious worker shortages and immigrant farmworkers are critical. that's why across america of
farmworkers and the farmers are calling on the senate to pass the farm work modernization act of farmworkers not only deserve a path to legal status they are vital to our nation's future. for evidence of that i look no further than my own state. a few years ago legislator from my own state said quote illinois has been a mirror of america. there is no state that i might add that reflects a diversified nature of america's economy. we have one of the largest metropolitan areas around chicago and 27 million acres of farmland and over the past couple of decades a troubling trend has emerged inin our stat. while the population growth rate in urban areas has increased it is decreased in our rural areas. to put it simply declining population growth means in years to, [roll call] communities will have fewer consumers to shop and fewer taxpayers to fund schools and hospitals. these divergent trends are not exclusive to my state.
they pose a long-term risk to ours nation's health that the senate can help turn the tide. we can enact reforms to the immigration system that encourage families to move to the rural hearts ofen their stae badly so they can work on farms that they can open businesses restaurants and shops and can should be to the economy as consumers and taxpayers. our farms and our farms in the community surrounding them are some of our nation's greatest assets. let's give them policies that help them to thrive and survive. that the legislation might the farm will workforce modernization act is the future of america in particular in rural america. let's invest in that future with hard-working good people. with that i'm going to handed off to ranking member grassley for his opening statement. >> i did not have the same work experience you had mr. chairman at a packing but i can tell you that i can attest to the
conditions that you describe where you work because i saw them every day for six years at the packing company in waterloo, iowa. i paid my way through the university of northern iowa so i thank youu mr. chairman for holding this hearing. we hear about the lack of labor and agriculture even in my state of iowa. secretary ed think you for being here. i would be remiss if i didn't start today's hearing by noting that last month u.s. customs and border protection encountered 188,829 people at our southern border andou four to 71 and increase from the year before and countered with unaccompanied children up 802% from last june. family units were up 3424% from last june.ju it's clear that we are still
facing an ongoing crisis at the rosouthern border and is long pt time for this committee to exercise its oversight o responsibilities and seek testimony from the secretary of homeland security and other demonstrations officials regarding what they are doing or not doing to address this issue. with respect to the issue of agriculture a labor it's an unfortunate reality that a significant portion of our agricultural workforce is made up of undocumented immigrants. it's also an unfortunate reality that the h-2a program which was set up to secure a stable flow of legal r agricultural labor io the united states doesn't work well for many employers including in my home state of iowa. and like to make three points regarding congressional consideration of agriculture labor reform. first the primary focus of any such proposal should be
reforming the h-2a program to ensure that farmers and agriculture employers have access to a stable and legal workforce. i consistently hear from employers in my home state about the need for congress to improve their ability to get access to labor. this will in part involve expanding the program to cover year-round agricultural industries such as dairy all animal agriculture and agricultural processing that occurred and excluded and i want to emphasize excluded from the h-2a program. it should also involve streamlining the program reducing red tape and addressing the high cost of using the program for many farmers and agricultural employers. we'll hear from some of our witnesses today about how the farm workforce modernization act, the focus of today's hearing, falls short in addressing a number these
issues. second it is important that any agriculture labor reform and immigration reform more broadly include a robust and mandatory component. finally agriculture and labor reform should include mask amnesty of current undocumented immigrant farmworkers. we should learn from the mistakes of the past or we are doomed to repeat them so let me repeat what i learned from the 1986 legislation that i voted for it. it was termed the immigration reform and control act which provided an amnesty to more thas 1 million farmworkers under what was called a special agriculture workers program. at the time the american people were told in 1986 the amnesty bill would be ati one-time fix. title i of the farm workforce modernization act creates a
program called the certified agricultural worker status that is in many respects almost identical to the special agriculture workers program that congress created in 1986. 1986 saw the special agricultural worker program headed amnesty part two of three was notoriously riddled with fraud. i'm going to make someme quotes that this isn't just chuck grassley saying it to "the new york times" called the special agriculture program quote one of the most extensive immigration frauds ever perpetrated against the united states government end of quote.im then congressman now senator chuck schumer said at that time -- he was one of the authors of that program in the 1986 bill. he said that it was quote to
opent and he implied susceptible to fraud. in july the 2000 report the inspector general from the department just as noted in 1995 management had been immigration and naturalization service estimated that 70 or send to the special iger culture worker allocations were fraudulent. on top of being bad policy amnesty of current. farmworkers improved absolute nothing to address labor shortages and workforce agencies and race on the aftermath of the 1986 amnesty bill many agriculture workers will receive legal status ultimately left the agricultural sector. employers then turned to a new pool of undocumented immigrant workers to replace all the ones who had left and thus the cycle
simply began once again. aci hope the congress will be ae to address agricultural labor reform in a way that breaks the cycle of dependence upon labor that illegally crosses our border and will find legal ways to bring them into the country and thus actually help farm and agricultural farmers get full access to the labor that they need and even in the state of iowa i hear this. the bill we are discussing today doesn't do that and i look forward to working with my colleagues on the legislation that does. thank you. >> thank you senator. the chairman of immigration subcommittee. >> thank you chairman durbin for cochairing this hearing after all the work we put into organizing today. i often say thatat no state has
more at stake in immigration formed in my home state of california and it's especially true when it comes to the essential role of farm work. california is the agricultural part of the nation. they note that more than a third of our fruits and vegetables and two-thirds of fruits and come from california. in fact farmers in california and especially in california struggle every year to higher as many of the farmworkers as they need to pick major crops. this is prior to the pandemic. that's why her agricultural industry has relied for decades on the labor of immigrants. if we look back at her nation's history immigrants kept our
country fed. you recall the program which brought millions of temporary workers to california at the time. we can also reflect on the 1960s when california's immigrant farmworkers led a historic white-hot to fight for safer working conditions. today an estimated 60, persistent 5% of california's farmworkers are undocumented. these dedicated individuals work backbreaking -- backbreaking jobs for hours on end to give their families a better chance at live. and to feed all of our families across the nation. that's why i believe they deserve better wages, better working conditions including overtime pay but i digress.
that may not -- that may be the subject of a hearing on another day. or this last year or year and a half. during the covid-19 pandemic it wasn't just the united states government lets be clear about this. donald trump's department of homeland security deemed farmworkers essential workers. think d about what that means. formal recognition by the federal government that farmworkers regardless of immigration status are critical to our nation, critical to the farm supply, critical to our economy. we can't live without them. that was the case long before the pandemic that it was formalized during the covid-19 pandemic. it's no surprise that despite the challenges farmworkers
continue to show up for work despite the triple threat of the pandemic, extreme heatwaves and record t breaking wildfires. because of their presence on the frontline and the climate crisis farmworkers and farm committees has suffered a disproportionate number of illnesses and deaths but they still continue to show up for work. at the same time many of these workers s take increased risk because of their undocumented status showing up for work despite living in fear of deportation. too many were denied the necessary ppe to try to mitigate the risks being exposed to others, unable because they were unable to seek health care and
too many afraid to speak out against the dangerous working conditions for fear of retaliation including but not limitedd to direct deportation y their employer. more than half a million farmworkers, more than half a million in essential farmworkers from the u.s. government contracted the coronavirus and thousands of them lost their lives. farmers and all workers who went -- work on the frontlines of the pandemic deserve better. they deserve respect, they deserve our gratitude, they deserve security and they deserve a pathway to citizenship let's recognizeo that farmworkes
look atog the adults having livd here on average 18 years. it's a very different group of workers and residents in those who may have showed up with the southern border the last few months. let's not conflate the two, addressing the challenges of the border, reforming our amnesty system.s let's not let that stand in the way of justice for farmers and other essential workers and that's why support the farm workforce modernization act and that's why i was inspired to introduce the citizenship for essential workers, the migrant bill in the senate. is fundamentally -- for government to recognize workers and deem them essential yet it denies them legal protection and status at the same time. as a proud son of immigrants i
know immigrants have always been essential since long before the pandemic. passing through immigration reform is a recognition of their contribution to our economy and our national security. i look forward to today's hearing and hearing from the witnesses and to make it clear what congress can do to ensure farmworkers have rights and protections. thank you. senate thank you chair and padilla. the ranking member of the subcommittee mr. cornyn. >> for the courtesy of allowing a brief statement i strongly agree the underlying premise of this hearing. immigrants and immigrant farmworkers are essential to agriculture and feeding the united states population. that's why is so important to take the time to study the
deficiencies in the current guestworker programs and to consider needed reforms. farmers and ranchers, producers face labor shortages at home. i hear it all the time for my constituents and they have turned to guest workers to fill their needs. according to statistics published by the u.s. department ofd agriculture the number of h2 a. guestworker positions requested by tag producers has grown from around 48,000 in 2005 to nearly 258,000 in 2019. as senator grassley pointed out aa moment ago the h2-a program only fill some of the agriculture communities labor needs. farmers can only use temporary seasonal work which may work in some places but certainly not in others. dairies mushroom producers livestock producers and others with the around needs are left out or producers who have different needs at different
times due to the season have to submit separate applications and the existing h2-a program again as senatorte grassley pointed ot is cumbersome and expensive for producers. i look forward to learning from our witnesses the changes we can make your program better tailoredne to our agriculture's needs. as we consider adjustments to the h2-a program we need to be careful that we don't unintentionally. new problems for ag reducers and ultimately increase prices for american consumers further driving up inflation. i'm concerned the bill that forms the centerpiece of this hearing that first modernization act does not yet have t unified support from the agriculture community. in particular i've heard from the texass farm bureau and the american farm bureau who have expressed concerns and they are seeking changes in theur legislation that is currently
drafted. mr. chairman i would ask unanimous consent that the copy of the letter be sent to you and senator d grassley be made partf the record. >> without objection. >> thank you. in its current state the farm workforce modernization act is not ripe for legislative action. no -- more work needs to be done and i'm happy to be part of that effort through congress created the special worker program in 1986 and many of the workers who received lawful permanent resident status through the program ultimately did not remain in agriculture. the congressional research services attribute of that departure from ag labor to their newfound eligibility for nonfarm jobs and it makes sense that people are here legally and they are not required to work in ag jobs. they have the option of working in less challenging working conditions and they are likely to move as the congressional research services said.
if congress legalizes the existing undocumented immigrant farmworker population without underlying -- without making the necessary changes in the guestworker programs i fear we would repeat the mistakes of the past. senator grassley pointed out that creates even more problems for ag producers and food supply. any plan to legalize a portion of the indictment of farmworker population must be coupled with a plan to replace those workers. we should not move only the legalization element of the proposal independent of the guestworr revisions while we need to make changes as i've indicated in the provisions. chairman durbin as you know we are discussing the farm workforce modernization act as part of their wide partisan immigration talks and as i said i don't believe the bill is currently ripe for legislation
action but we should dictate what they were to make changes to allow us to build the necessary consensus. as we address the broader issues we need to remain open to make incremental progress on issues like guestworker reform permanent legal status for. the recipients and the crisis that our border. concerning reports some of her democratic colleagues are considering using a partisan budget reconciliation process to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. it will surely not were consistent with the rules of the senate. members of this committee know laws are driven through -- and i hope our democratic colleagues will commit moving them through there legislative process. regarding the border crisis that disproportionally fix my state
with 1200 miles of common border with mexico on disappointing to have a witness from the department of homeland security. >> directly to that issue. last month cbp and howard 180,000 migrants along the southwestern border. just a few days ago the center for disease control told us that 93,000 americans die of drug overdose mainly from illicit drugs coming across the southwest border. many of our border patrol or taken off the front lines of securing the border because their taking care of unaccompanied children and others claiming asylum. the numbers have only continued to climb. wewe cannot possibly help of the biden administration is mulling over its authority to expel migrants under 42 in the coming weeks and give is covid positive
test rate has surged dramatically as a result of the uncontrolled movement of april across the border without appropriate public health measures being taken. farm and ranch families in my stead and elsewhere along the border experience damage to their property including crops is the result of the surge. i consider that an agricultural issue and finally senator sinema the senator from arizona and i have introduced the bipartisan border solution that does youy.o mr. chairman to restore order to the border region by establishing a regional processing centers in away from addressing the crisis on the southwest border which i think will be absolutely essential element of seeking immigration reform that hopefully can pass congress and
i look forward to continuing work with my colleagues on immigrationng and border policy solutions. say thank you senator cornyn. senator feinstein has asked for a moment for an opening statement. >> thank you very much mr. chairman i appreciate this is a really important bill for california. it's estimated we have 280,000 people that did the affected by it and last year mr. chairman i didd a bill that dealt with this but it didn't go anywhere this year the house has passed this bill. i really think it has merit and will stand the test of time. it passed the house and marched on a bipartisan vote of two and 47-174. it allows undocumented
farmworkers who have worked for years in this country who have paid their taxes and you can pass a criminal and security background check to legally remain in the united states and potentially earn a green card but it creates a year-round age do a visa category that will help industries like dairy a big industry my state that needs more long-term workers. it also creates a pilot program for portable visas that will help states like a big win, california, where workers need to move from region to region according to the schedule of multiple -- it's a good-faith bill that reflects months of careful negotiations between lawmakers growers and labor and all of us know that this isn't easy to do.
what i like about is its comprehensive in scope and measured in its intention and has bipartisan support. most importantly gives farmers to help they need and it protects essential farmworkers who work hard to put food on our table so i just want to say i'm delighted that you have scheduledd this and i thank you and the ranking member and i strongly support the balanced and thoughtful approach. one step is done because it has effectively passed the house and we might justs get something doe so thank you very much. >> thank you senator feinstein. senator tell us. >> thank you mr. chairman and secretary vilsack thank you for being here. i've got a markup that i have to go to mlb there until late in the evening but this is an important subject. i had intended to stay but i felt like he had to come down here and weigh in on what i consider to be a very important
subject their first off you should bedo giving -- proud of getting an a raiding in your confirmation and a strong indication that republicans and democratss have a lot of confidence in your ability to lead the department of mr. chairman i think, heard last night i received an e-mail where some pundit on the right said our immigration negotiation discussions are dead. that's not true. i heard a week ago some pundit on the left talking about if we did nothing more than legalized and double the salaries of those working in the fields we would fix the problem. that's not sure either. but we have the working working group that is trying to put together a set of policies that will get the immigrant or murders over the finish line, get dock over the finish line and those enrolled in daca get them over the finish line and
work to solve a decades-old problem where we get to the one yard line and we fumble. it done on for decades. we made a mistake when we did amnesty is senator grassley talked about. i think we can do it in a way that makes w sense. i've had very productive discussions with members on the other side of. the aisle but let's make sure we have technology and infrastructure to interdict illicit materials and human trafficking that give people across the border illegally every single day. we have guest workers come to this country work and go home. i wonder if we have taken his time to get the guest worker program right many the people we are talking about today who are legally present if they knew they i could come to the country where many family members live they would come here and work and go back home and come here and work and b go back home agan and they want to seek a path to citizenship. we have to recognize an amnesty
perimeter is something that should be on the table for discussionon but do not understd recognize the need to take care of guest worker programs we are going to miss again. we are going to fumble on the one-yardak line again and if we just simply given a room together and recognize border security is something that we should work on it can be on ryssdal basis. it will be done differently if the members of the senate were wrong and the party in the white house is different but let's look at the hand we were dealt with that stick out a way to come up with a reasonable way to take care of the needs of the farmers. but they tell you what's happening. when the concerns i have with the farm workforcece modernizatn actyo is some of those who on is face supported may not recognize what can happen on the backside and by the way mr. chair i have two others from north carolina growers association of sweet potatoes that i'd like to
interdict the record expressing their concerns of the workforce modernization act. let's tell the farmers out there lets hear the good news. people have a practices practices and ship may be long lines at the doctor programmers probably makes sense given what senator padilla said about many having worked here for a decade or more. the farmers think they have solved their labor problem only to find out the provision of the modernization act itself or private right of action for your guest worker we can be sued. the good news is you've got stability with your workforce and the bad news is what industry can be created so that farmer has the workers and now they have to spend time defending themselves against lawsuits. these are the things we did talk about other things that can be worked out. i believe it needs to be done. i'm a reader of history and
comprehensive immigration reform has failed miserably every time it's been attempted. i've used the word little. >> i'm prepared to look and say we don't have a worker -- problemgh here. get out of your ivory tower and go talk to the farmers. go talk to a surviving spouse of the farmer who committed suicide because they could make their generation farm work anymore. the last thing i would say go to your -- i went into the seafood section i saw e.'s coast wild caught shrimp $12.99 a pound. read throughout $8.99 a pound. if you continue to keep regulatory and labor costs on these farmers i agree immigrant farmworkers are essential to getting america but i also believe farmers are essential to beating american we have to get
the numbers right. i want to make it very clear i'm not going to stop talking with members on the other side of the out who are serious about fixing this problem n and willing to compromise that can get 60 votes in the senate and make progress for the first time since queen was still topping the charts. mr. secretary and apologize for not being here. i've got a lot of questions but i'd like the opportunity to give with you and talk about these things because i believe you understand these issues. mr. chairman i look forward to continuing toel work with you to come up with a solution and senator feinstein thank you for all the work and collaboration we have had. we should get this done. thank you mr. chair. >> senator tillis thank you and i'm sorry of a conflict and have to go to another committee meeting. like to clarify two things there is no cause of action created in his farmer kirk modernization act.
it is on the looks exactly. >> i was thinking specifically the h2-a program which will still be essential after we make the illegally present population farmworkers because you have some of that population leave the farm after they get citizenship h and rightly so to pursue the american dream and if we don't have a backstop for making sure we ever reliable aides do a program we are going to have a problem. >> thank you not also added 2005 when the senate was in republican control they overwhelmingly passed bipartisan reconciliation bill that dramatically increase the number vinegar greeting cards so i hope we can find a pathway for a bipartisan effort and i thank you so much for what you have put into that both the reconciliation option and issued by the other party in 2005 at a now to welcome music. agriculture thomas vilsack. thank you for coming forward
before the judiciary committee. proves a service secretary from 2,192,710 of president obama strength and add economy built in rural america and is confirmed as senator tillis noted by an overwhelming margin as part of the biden administration s in february. will have five-minute rounds for the secretary and the same type of rounds for the second panel which will come before us. let me start officially secretary vilsack asking if you will stand to be sworn. due from the testimony you're about to affirm to the committees the whole truth the full full truth of nothing but the truth? thank you very much. let the record reflect that secretary answered in the affirmative as i expected. >> thank you very much and as senator grassley and the members the committee thank you for the oropportunity beer today. i think it's only fair since you all asked me questions and i
asked you a set of questions at the outset. what industry and united states basically provides hope of the food needs for three and a 23 million americans and still has enough food left over to export nearly 20 to 30% to the rest of the world? what industry basically provides the opportunity for american families to enjoy something that no other set of families around the world enjoy such as spending the least amount of their disposable income on food. american family spends approximately 10% of their income on food and if you go to any other developed nation you see it in the 20 to 25% range and in developing countries it may be as much as 50%. industries supports 40 million american jobs and is responsible for nearly 20% of united states according to and associates study. that industry is the food and
agriculture industry that we are here to talk about for the same kind of answer is served by a number of workers and it's beeno pointed out today that among them are farmworkers. nearly 2.4 to 2.5 million workers who work incredibly hard and as was pointed out by this committee are now considered to be essential workers in an industry that i would articulate and argue is also an essential industry for the future the united states. who are they? they are indeed people who live in this country for an incredibly long period of time. the average senator or indicate his 18 of longevity in this country working. half may be as much a 70% of his workers may well be undocumented workers. 83% of them are and latino. they work long hours, eight, 10, 10, and 12, 14 hour shifts five or six days a week or their income on average is below
either at or below the poverty line. they are dedicated to their families. let me share with you a story that was shared with me in upstate new york on an immigration discussion i had been individual has been working in this country for 20 years. i asked him what his hope is in dreams and aspirations were five or 10 years from now. he said mr. secretary very simply i would like to see my family. is that what you mean? i haven't seen my family for 20 years. i'm concert if they leave the country i won't be alone to get back. when we talk about family values i think these farmworkers are folks who understand and appreciate the essential nature of family values. they come up here to make a better living and send resources back to their families with the understanding they may never ever see them again. why is that? sits it's in part because we have an uncertain and i think we can argue abrupt an immigration
system. the available -- the availability of age to a workers of size and question and wage increases and decreases fluctuate fromay year-to-year. there's a cumbersome process involved. there are uneven worker protectionsrt and again these ae separating from families. what can we do about a quick the house of representatives decided to take matters in their own hands as they did in 2019 by passing the farmworker modernizationte act. this is an act that simplifies streamlines the h2-a process and creates a year-long workforce opportunity. it creates a certified classification for people out of work in the country at least 180 days the last two years and clarifies wage increases and decreases that provide long-term stability to producers improves housing opportunities for workers without warning producers with additional costs.
a full-time e-verify system streamlines the process for dispute resolution in emergency appeals to producers and provides a pathway on the legitimacy after payment off a fine and making sure they can pass a criminal background check. i'm here to say simply that the cade on american agriculture in these workers to plead with the senate to fix this broken system to maintain the capacity of this great food and agriculture industry that continues to provide the benefits we all enjoy in this country the same time to provide the respect and undignity to the farmworkers are working so hard to make the system what it is today. thank you mr. chair. senate thank you mr. secretary and i might addte that the farmworker modernization act revised for workers to get a five-year certified worker visa visas to work in u.s. agriculture so they can establish with that visa that
they had 10 years of prior work in agriculture and applied for green card after waiting four years and then will wait five more years before it can have naturalization. the criticism during the reagan administration legislation gave him a status that had been leaving agriculture very quickly seems to be addressed by the timetable that i just laid out for you here. if you areim a worker even if yu want to go through the system in order to become a legal citizen and stop worryingst about crossg the border never getting back as i understand he spent 20 years in agriculture and he meets the tenure requirement and in many asked to wait four more years and in that for four years he for years to he gets a green card and he waits five years to be eligible forr naturalization.
you have at least a minimum of nine years of agriculture and as i understand it and maybe i'm mistaken but as i understand it 90 years of minimum working in agriculture before citizenship. >> i think it'ss reflective that legislation for folks on both sides of this legislation -- workers gave an producers gave an effort to find common ground. >> a key point these two groups have not historically been on the same page. we know that and i won't go into the history. it's well-documented but in this case they worked out an agreement between them. certainly the producers understood they needed ag labor so they were prepared to come up with a process leading to citizenship and naturalization but it's over time even for the veteran farmworkers. let me ask you to reflect for a
moment mr. secretary. your state of iowa next to my stated goal and i have three things in common in terms of the crops we grow and the life of our [roll call] committees. would you reflect for a moment on the state of agriculture in iowa as it relates to this issue of the migrant farmworkers and those coming to take jobs related to food production? i can tell you we have a witness on the next panel linnea kooistra. i've had dairy farms tell me unless you are -- you need workers to come in and milk those cows twice a day to keep the dairy farm operating the same thing is true in the orchards. if they don't have workers coming in to pick those crops they will literally go out of business. one particular owner of an orchard saidke senator bill tell
me to hire local people prevent trying to get a high school kid to stand out by the highway where we sell the fruit. it's air-conditioned and i still can't get a worker to do it so it's an indication of the challenges they face. have you seen the same thing in iowa or other parts of the midwest? >> i have senator and ica g was thinking of a conversation i'd recently with a dairy farmer indicated he was a third generation but he said then reality is our family wasn't large enough to be able to deal with the expansion of their operation operationsad so we had to hire additional workers. and they became part of our family. the nine people to work on his farm he sees them as part of his family for the same panel that isn't too including the president of the new york farm bureau as well as to representatives of the vegetable grower association in new york and they shared the fact that they put out an advertisement
for additional workers. they didn't get a single response, not a single person responded to the ad for additional opportunities to work in the industry. it's clear that this industry is dependent on immigrant workers. it's's very clear. there numerous examples of situations where requests were made for u.s. workers to work in these difficult jobs with very little response, if any. >> and the meat and poultry processing industries and areas of alumni where we have those lads we also have air markedly large number of immigrant workers. from africa for when i go to a naturalization hearing in springfield it's not uncommon to have two or three from africa who worked at a meet processing plant not far from springfield in the same is true of hispanics. see that this is a reoccurring story of our history. immigrant labor comes in and
does difficult and challenging work that the rest of us are not interested in doing. they do it well and they have the notion of being able to supply an opportunity for a better life for their family. this is replayed every said the ban of meatpacking facilities and every single day on the farms. these are people that cared deeplysi about their families ad their sacrifice and working hard to make sure their families a better life. thate is the story here. we need to take out something that allows them to have that connection with their family that the rest of us enjoy every single day. >> thank you mr. secretary. senator grassley. >> thank you's secretary vilsack for being here and well i'm glad to see you here and disappointed that secretary mayorkas isn't here as well because the hoa program is a major guestworker program administered by the hartman of labor and the department of homeland security and not by your department. if we are going to have a
hearing aboutit h2 way secretary mayorkas should be here to answer questions but if he was here i'd ask him about a june 3 letter that he and use secretary vilsack and interior secretary haaland received from the state farm bureau relating to the current crisis and increase in immigration illegally crossing our border. i would ask to put that letter in the record at this point. the letter notes that the ranchers families are bearing the brunt of this influx of them never seen a more dire situation for the letter went on to say that farming families have experienced damage to their crops and property which has caused financial hardship and more importantly the letter
highlighted both the security and safety of these families given the current circumstances and the letterer concluded by urging the wyden administration to quote racket nice the crisis and take swift action. mr. secretaries of the letter was addressed to you i'm not going to ask you if you read it because you get a lot of mail but i do direct you to that letter and i describe some of that letter so this brings me to my first question with units based on the proposition that i don't know for sure if there are any programs in the department of agriculture that canan help these farmers and i don't know even if these farmers asked for anyca help but is the usda currently taking any action to help farming families who've experienced damage to their --
as a result of the border crisis and if i not do you have a plan to to that? we are asking your folks to take a look at whether or not the conservation programs we have could potentially provide assistance and help in terms of debris removal and repair offenses and so forth that have been damaged. i have seen the letters i read the letter. president duvall whose the president of this r american fam bureau weal have talked so we ae looking at ways from a financial standpoint to help those families. >> thank you very families. see that thank you very much for that's a very positive response by question and the last subject i will bring up h2 a. access for year-round agricultural employer. you know this is a major issue for a number of bag industries in our home state of iowa. are you expanding the hoa program to cover year-round agricultural v workers such as
animal agricultural and agricultural processing because right now it's limited to dairy and they think a 20,000 person cat ilt think. >> in the proposal i see an expansion and accretion of this opportunity. as i understand that senator and i could be wrong i believe there's a phase in over the three years the 60 additional h2 way workers and there's a pilot program that focuses on the ability of workers to move around the country. i know the areas very interested in that long-term year-round workforce and the national milk producers federation is his support of this as i might add a view and groups who have worked collaboratively with the farmworker unions to work on this bill. ior think there is a process ani think there's an opportunity for us to seeni how that stage and
increase works and determined that point in time whether additional adjustments need to be made so there is a process and we are certainly appreciativeno of that. >> i think that i will ask my last question but i want to stay there for the record anyway. i know you are generally supportive of this legislation but is what is your response to employers including iowa-based employers on our next witness panel have expressed concern about how the bill addresses aidsye two-way access to year-round employees and the bills cat on hoa workers year-round? >> the key is to give us an opportunity to see whether the approach works for that would point out there a are number of reforms and streamlining of the process and an on line registry and the example to not have to have repeat applications to get workforce from time to time during the course of the year so i think they are a series of
important improvements to the h2-a system. it's an opportunity to see how thisim works and obviously there are problems that we can always tweet and modify but first and foremost you want to learn to walk before you run and the phased in approach allows us to walk before we run. >> senator feinstein. >> thank you mr. chairman. welcome mr. secretary. under current law the wage range for h2 way workers is usually set as i understand it that the adverse effect of trade sometimes called the super minimum wage. that rate can vary considerably between regions and fluctuate from one season to the next, creating uncertainty for both employers and workers. the farmworkers modernization act if passed would free the rate for one-year and then put
caps on the amount you can go up or down for the next nine years. does this fact do enough to ensure that rowers can anticipate the wages that they will pay workers? >> senator i think it does and i would point out the current wage an average for those folks earning that wages roughly a little over $13 an hour which is significantly below the average wage of a typical american worker and also below the wage that a worker with the lowest educational level and our economy would earn. again back to the individual i talk with the new york it's interesting to me they were working for $13 an hour and haven't had a raise in three years. thisis does provide some stabily and a range of which growth producers and workers can work with and i think it provides and directs me and the department of
homeland security to take a look at that calculation in that method over that nine or 10 year period and determine whether there is a more permanent fix that could be put in place but it's certainly an improvement over the current state which creates uncertainty for everyone. >> most farmworkers are guarding protected by the migrant and seasonal like the culture worker protection act. he h2 way workers are not. tethe farm workforce modernizatn act if passed would change that. the farmworker modernization act if passed would change that by expanding mspa to exclude h2-a workers so here are two questions. is the farmworkers, the farm workforce modernization act do enough to protect workers from exploitation and abuse by
employers? >> i think it provides an opportunity for consistency and parity in terms of those protections. i think they are additional ways ways in which this bill provides a mentioned housing and in addition to working conditions these folks deserve decent housing. that's if they are late, can be aol fairly expensive propositio. it directs the department of agriculture to invest additional resources that would be the provided under this bill. at the end of the day the service adds a delicate l is compromise between producers and workers. they worked larded -- long and this and it deserves our vote of confidence allowing to be able to see if it works and what works well and what doesn't work and as you all know no bill is ever perfect of confidence to allow it to see what works well, what doesn't
work. note no bill is ever perfect. i think the fact that this is a compromise between people who historically have had a difficult time finding common ground, we should be encouraging that kind of activity i would think. so time will tell. it's certainly improved where it is today. >> thank you. that's very helpful. >> senator conyn? >> mr. secretary, thank you for being here today and for your testimony. i particularly appreciate your reaching out to me and other members to see what's possible in this space as a practical person and somebody who has been a governor of the state, you understand the legislative process is perhaps by design difficult. because you have to build consensus and that's always particularly been a challenge in this area. i would share the views that senator tillis earlier expressed where comprehensive immigration
reform certainly has never been successful in the time i have been here in the senate. i think the best way for us to try to do this is to take smaller pieces on an incremental basis and find consensus where we can, but then use that as a confidence building measure to then allow us to do other things. i'm not suggest we stop at the farm labor position, and i asked senator durbin to consider putting a bill in the committee for mark-up on the daca population. 640,000 young people who now have great deal of uncertainty as a result of a federal court decision last year saying the original executive memorandum issued by the secretary during the obama administration was not legally effective to pregnant them a work permit and deferred action.
but i want to just have a conversation maybe or at least about the best path forward. i know everybody is frustrated by our lack of progress in the immigration space. our colleagues now apparently are going to rely on the budget process in order to try to pass immigration reform. i have a different point of view from that of the chairman. the senate rules are not self-executing and the so-called precedent he points to in 2005, there no objection based on the rule. so my personal opinion is, and i think it's shared by many people including the former senate parliamentarian, it's not going to be possible for us to do immigration reform in the context of the budget.
which is what our colleagues have in mind. so my simple request would be for you and the administration to continue to work with us to try to do this during the normal legislative ross. i know building bipartisan support for legislation is hard work. that's why so many people avoid it. except as a last resort. but it's very important, i think, for us to provide some stability to our broken immigration system. i think you used those words. i would agree with you. part of what's happening a at the border right now is simply unacceptable and needs to be addressed. senator cinema, we have introduced a solutions act in order to provide some suggestion to the administration and others about where the administration might listened on that issue
rather than try to ignore it, which a appears to be what they are doing now. so i would like to try to find a way to be constructive in this area. it's enormously frustrating because we haven't been successful, but i'm kmitsed to keep trying. i would ask you to continue to work with us and encourage folks on both sides of the aisle as well as the administration to stay engaged with congress to try to solve these problems through the normal legislative process rather than resort to this partisan budget process, which i believe will have zero percent chance of success. thank you. >> did you have a question, senator? if. >> no. >> your choice. >> it is my choice.
thank you. >> senator coons? >> thank you, chairman durbin. and thank you, senator cornyn, for those relaive and direct comments about the importance of our finding a bipartisan way forward. and thank you, chairman, for your continued leadership of a bipartisan group of senators who meet week after week and trying to find a pathway forward. and thank you, secretary vilsack, for presenting so concisely to us the opportunity we have in front of us with this piece of legislation. legislation hammered out by groups that do not often come to the same table. those representing farm workers and farmers, represent aring very different points of interest. as you pointed out, we owe the food on our tables to the farm workers who have labored during this pandemic in remarkably difficult circumstances. living through, working through extreme weather, working through the challenges of this pandemic and to the farmers who employ them and we have a badly broken immigration system. around farm labor and processing
in our country, i can think of no better way to honor the contributions of the essential workers in our farms and in our country than by showing them that their continued hard work under the sun is can earn them a place in our society outside the shadows of being undocumented and disengaged from our communities and our country. so i look forward to working with you and to both democrats and republicans to try to advance this promising and important piece of legislation. this is an issue close to my heart. in delaware we have one of the greatest consecrations of chicken processing. we grow corn to feed those chickens. 42% of the land area of delaware that's in agriculture. it generates $1.5 billion a year, which is tiny compared to iowa, but big for my state. and we have long struggle thed to come up with the right balance of who is working and how and why. and this would help move that
forward. delaware farms do not use a huge number of h 2 a visas, burr they rely on workers to get products to market. the application process is too complex, too kiemtime consuming and in fact some famplers told me they have to hire a consultant just to get through that process. so farmers agree it's time to modernize and reform this system so we have a legal pathway for folks to come here. i just spent two days in guatemala with a bipartisan group of starts. one of the things we heard from the president to advocates is we need a better legal pathway for folks to come to this country to put pressure back on those trafficking illegally folks into this had country. can you speak to how this bill would address issues like this?
>> i would be happy to, senator. thank you for the question. current process requires multiple filings in order to qualify and to obtain h 2 a workers the current process requires if you have a growing season where you want to bring workforce in and then bring back them at the end of the growing season, tough go through the twice. it also provides classified ads in a series of steps to try to quantify that you tried to hire people from this country. this essentially would provide an online job registry, which would make it easier to satisfy that criteria as well. in that case, it simpifies and
reduces the paperwork and burden. i think it reduces the cost associated with the current system. >> you have been the governor of iowa. you have been the secretary of agriculture. you are now again the secretary of agriculture. is it your testimony to us today that this maybe a once in a generation opportunity to make right how immigration and our farming industry and community and society interacts in a way that provides real opportunity for us? >> for the first time in a long time, i think the country as a whole, not individual senators who understand the prns of this industry, they appreciate the nature of our food and agriculture industry and are appreciative of it. having said that, there are manies a pektss of that system that are broken. just to give you one statistic. 89% of american farms do not generate the majority of income from it the farming operation for the farm family. we have to begin the process of constructing a stronger foundation for this system, and part of that stronger foundation
is a better ag worker system. >> let me close with this as the co-chair of the bipartisan chicken caucus. i was proud to work with my colleagues, including a fell low member from south carolina. to include direct payments to chicken growers for the first time. part of the usda's response to covid-19 tofs broaden in terms of who is eligible and able to work with direct payment i just want to thank you for working beyond that are making the critical additional support for farm families. >> yankees senator coons and i understand there's open enrollment it chicken farms. >> we are taking all comers. >> thank you. you are what you eat so bottom line i appreciate you coming mr. secretary. is the southern border secure?
it's fair to say there are ways we can improve. that is not the question. it's a s secure? if you can't figure this out. is that a hard question? >> it can be a hard question. >> a million people came across, an all-time high with no end in sight and if we legalize one person under this program which i think historically how would it affect border security? would it be a run on the border? >> i don't believe so. >> you don't believe if we give legal status to hundreds of thousands of people without securing the border there won't be a rush on the board are? >> i don't believe so. >> why? >> in large part the people we are talking about better part of the antwerp versa been hereve fr a long period of time. i understand the nature of its workforce. >> do understand if you give legal status to one person
without -- you are going to have a run on the border? >> i don't believeve so. the reason iwi don't is becausei think. >> i think that's ludicrous and i've been involved in every immigration bill there is then and we always secure the border first for this reason but you don't don't get give understand how people will stop coming. we are doing it backwards and mr. chairman we have had our differences and i like you a lot. we have had to committee hearings about legalizing people. we haven't had one hearing yet about the status of the border. if you don't leave legalization for dachau or add workers will create a run on the order you aren't listening to the people at the border. when i was chairman you asked me in your committee did the democrats asked me to have hearings about the way kids were being treated. we have three different hearings from the department of homeland
security acting director to come so you can ask questions about conditions and environment in our policy in the border. senator grassley is up for hearing and i've asked for a hearing. there's no way in we can legalize anybody until we first understand the effectiveness it would have on the border and whether or not it would incentivize legal immigration mr. secretary you are a fine man and you are very good at your job but if you can't figure out that lee was asian without first securing the border doesn't.an a problem you don't understand this issue and mr. chairman when you asked me to do things that some of my people didn't want to do we did. we have hearings and it's now time for this oversight committee to have a hearing about what the hell happened at our border? and december 2020 we had the largest illegal crossings in 45 years. now six months later we have a mix closing of illegal immigration with no end in sight
because of the policy changes by the biden administration i believe put us in peril to do oversight on a broken border to try to figure out what the hell happened the last six months and if we did some other things being suggested by the secretary and by other people about legalizing any population what effect would it have on illegal immigration? my belief that it would lead to an explosion of legal immigration now ask you againn tell me why if we legalize hundreds of thousands of workers which i'm willing to do without first securing the border youat don't believe it would create border security problems correct explain that to me. >> you want an explanation? >> yeah i do. >> the primary reason people across the borders because they have a bad experience economically at home. you asked me to respond and i
want to respond. >> go ahead and finish and i will follow up. >> if you are truly serious about that piece i think we have to take a look at how wee can help to create better opportunities south of the border. >> you don't leave catch an releases have an effect? >> just a question about they were culture workforce. >> but then you answered about y immigration. the key is to give more money to. >> the key is helping them build their own economy. >> we are trying to do that. >> i don't know how well we have been trying to do it. >> we don't believe the change in policy has affected the wave of illegal immigration you don't believe eliminating mexico has affected the surge of people? >> it's a complicated issue. >> no it's not complicated at all. spit it gets very complicated.
>> what the hell is happened in the triangle countries in six months where we went from the lowest illegal crossings coming from that part of the world toha the highest. >> the pandemic at a food shortage. >> that t is would you believe life is not changing the policy to remain in mexico for abolishing the idea that in mexico you are released into the country me can figure out when the biden administration canceled that they let you come into the country they release you into the country and you never show up for hearing that catch and release program, have you ever talk to the border patrol about this and have you ever had discussions about the border patrol yes or no? >> yes. >> when was that? >> i don't remember the year. >> has it been the last 10 years? has it been the last year?
>> no. >> go talk to some of them and you'll find out how wrong you are if you talk to them. spend the last oversight hearing in the judiciary committee and the previous chairman was on the subcommittee hearing on january 16 of 2018, 2.5 years ago the president hi has been in office yesterday six months so in terms of oversight by the department of homeland security bears a record of the hearing 2.5 years ago. i would also add a call this hearing with senator padilla because most americans will be sitting down to dinner tonight and through the weekend and enjoying food that's being made possible to large part by migrant farmworkers that we are trying to figure a way to deal with this. ifo the premise is we can't do anything on immigration until we do everything on immigration we
will be right where we have been for 36 years, doing nothing. >> mr. chairman may respond? in 2019 we held an oversight hearing with customs and border protection responding to the smugglingov of persons at the southern border on june 2, 2020th the oversight hearing for best practices for incarceration. w have had -- i i begase with the secretary twice because we are concerned about family duthinks separated so you cannot understand this issue if you have a hearing on the border and would affection the wave of illegal immigration. if you don't secure your border worst mr. chairman then you are going to incentivize more illegal immigration. that's why every elliott for cat had ordered security is the first thing and the secretary of agriculture you are a fine man are working on this program began to talk the border patrol because if you spend 15 minutes
talking with them they will tell you they -- as they created last two months and if we legalize one person theat worst is yet to come. >> i stand by my statement. the last dhs oversight hearing with 2.5 years ago. there've been specific issues that have been raised and you know as well as i do we put together bill that included a dramatic commitment to border security more money than any of us ever imagined. it was not approved on the house side who was in control. i'm loath to accept the premise that until you solve everythingo you can't solve anything. i want to do what's right for the farmworkers and border security and i don't think they are exclusive. i think they can be done together, least i hope they can. the next questionn comes from senator klobuchar who is joining us virtually. said thank you very much senator durbin and i want to go back to the work to you in the early
days that senator graham did on immigration and in fact every member is a brand-new senator the work that was being done with president bush to get immigration reform passed in those will -- those bills were passed over time including a lot of security money for the border and some of my earliest memories are of secretary gutierrez coming in and meeting with senator graham and senator mccainn and a number of democrats involved in his this effort, senator kennedy and i got to be there and i'm proud that we would get this done that when president obama came in again supported by a number of republicans it finally passed the u.s. senate with senator grassley. we passed immigration reform and the time is now. i want togr get back to what the core of this is for me. it comes down to yes there are
moral issues and yes there are other issues but in my state right now its it's economic issues and thereforeye i think your peer secretary vilsack my state has a strong economy the low unemployment rate. we don't have enough people for the work that needs to be done. our resorts and more significantly not in our area. for certain agricultural employers like gary which as been pointed out forestry, seasonal visas just don't meet the needs and that's why i am a fan of its year-round proposal as part of the immigration reform u.s. citizenship act that i'm a co-sponsor of with senator menendez but it's also the work that came out of the house. can you talk mr. secretary about the challenges trying to meet their year-round workforce needs
when they just have one of thesa seasonal visas? i've heard it i'd like to hear from you on the ground. >> senator we simply can't find the workers and the result is they have to reduce the amount that they are producing or they have to destroy that which they have grownes because they simply don't harvest. this is an issue that goes to the heart of our food supply and goes to the heart of our capacity to have choice in the grocery store and goes to the ability to have affordable food for our country and the ability to export which supports millions of jobs. at the end of the day for the workforce to be able to do that you need a stable and secure systems we can plan ahead to determine whether or not you are able to expand and able to buy that additional firemen able to expand by expanding your heard. farmers can't do that today. they can't make those decisions
because they don't have the security and stability of the system that works. >> do think it's part of thehe reason this has been bipartisan with democrats and republicans representing agricultural areas? a bill that passed was -- had republicans support it where's the republicans support coming fromsa because they listen to senator graham right now you would think there's no movement on immigration and i know differently from talking with my colleagues. the folks at work with this on the producer side and the labor side represent the entire political spectruman of this country. very concerted producers in the southwest and california obviously progressive folks representing the union and workers. they came together as a compromise bill an effort to move this forward and to strengthen t the foundation. i think that's a reason why you saw bipartisan support in house because they knew they read a separate agriculture groups that
felt this was a good idea and felt this was necessary to get done now. >> is a member the ag committee in addition to this great committee effort from many farmers and groups about the delays in processing agriculture visa applications that can have a devastating effect. in investments need to be put off as you pointed out. how is reducing processing delays such as by streamlining the application process benefits processors and consumers? and it would reduce costs and provide for better understanding and timely nature of the workforce. they are important to be timely because at the end of the day depending on when you are harvesting it will depend on the quality of what you are able to sell to the market. it means real money for farmers to be able to have that stable secure workforce on time.
>> my last question the next step from the bill, the house bill that is passed in and to .the larger idea of a pathway to citizenship in at a previous hearing in the immigration subcommittee a republican witness dr. douglas holtz-eakin testified about the economic benefits not just do affected immigrants but to all immigrants as a pathway to citizenship for it to qualify the farmworker modernization act requires an immigrantt pay federal taxes. how would expanded tax revenues not just foror the federal government but for state and local governments benefit all americans? >> as you will know budgets basically fund everything from education to job training to public safety to a wide variety of state and local responsibilities. you have additional resources and you can keep the tax base
lower for everyone and you can continue to have the essential services that people depend on. it makes sense obviously for folks to come out of the shadows to pay their taxes without fear of deportation or without fear of disruption on the farm. >> i think that's why senator durbin this is my last statement i think that's why when you look at the incredible production you would get the conference of immigration reform even though we are focused on year-round visas is one of the big benefits of the reason that grover norquist corded the immigration bill under president obama because of the debt reduction you would see and enormous benefit to taxpayers. with that i will turn it back to you senator durbin. thank youu for allowing me to appear remotely today. >> thank i you senator klobucha. senator cruz. >> the biden order crisis keeps getting worse. every day it is getting worse.
my home state of texas on the southern border we have seen over a half million illegal crossings this year. we are on a pace to have over 2 million people cross the border illegally. and this is the direct result of decisions made by joe biden and kamala harris. three decisions made in the opening week of this administration caused this crisis. number one the first week in office job biden immediately halted construction of the border wall. number two he reinstated the failed policy of catch and release at number three most indefensibly he ended the incredibly successful mexico international agreement. remain in mexico's agreement president trump negotiated withh the government of mexico that says that those people to cross into mexico illegally would remain in mexico while their
asylum cases are pending in thee united states and a work tremendously. last year we had the lowest rate of illegal immigration in 45 years. this year we have the highest rate of illegal immigration in over 20 years. the people of texas, i am hearing from people all across texas talk to mayors and by the way talk to democratic mayors on the border that are dealing with hundreds of thousands of people. .. daily basis, trafficking people, trafficking drugs. talk to landowners like one rancher i know who had his ranch house broke into and spray
painted on the walls. and the answer from the biden administration is theyen don't care. i have to say, mr. chairman, it is painful to say the answer from the democratic judiciary committee is the democra the crisis on the southern .order this iss not the first hearing we have had on amnesty for this is not the second hear me pat on amnesty pray this is the third hearing we've had on amnesty in the last six months for these hearings are the part of the problem. you know what? all across the world people are hearing senate democrats saying we are in the business of amnesty. little boys and little girls are getting physically assaulted by drug traffickers and unit traffickers for their been sexually assaulted by drug traffickers and human traffickers. when i let a group of 19 senators down to the border, we saw 111-year-old girl who
had been raped by the traffickers coming across. on theth rio grande river we saw the body of a man who had drowned crossing the river. and the answer tragically from the democrat judiciary committee as they do not give a h damn. democrats run the tv cameras, talking about kids in cages. there are more cages and they are more full today. joe biden is running the cages that are packed with kids at the tent facility built for 1000 people with colored restrictions its capacity is 250 people. senator, when we were down there, there were over 4200 people in that facility. seventeen 100% its capacity. but biden, after child, after
child packed in the little boys little girls not 6 feet apart, not 3 feet apart no beds, no mats, no cots wrapped in reflective emergency blankets. the time we were there the cut rate of covid positivity was over 10% and the biden administration is releasing illegal aliens into our community who are covid positive. it is irresponsible, it is wrong, every democrat who said to a tv camera kids in cages, kids in cages, mr. chairman why isn't this committee have on the biden cages? instead we have a hearing with the secretary of agriculture. mr. secretary if we were having a hearing on the optimum fertilizer for growing corn i think you might be a veryvi good witness.
the department of agriculture secure the border? >> were not responsible for the law enforcement aspect of this. >> you asked a question. >> allow the witness to answer. >> my question was do you secure the border your answer is no. do you run the cages? >> nova. >> do prostate the traffickers? no. >> are you the attorney general? are you the secretary of homeland security customer. >> mark no super. >> your answer on emigration were fertilizer, they were nonsense for your answer use and where we sing this crisis in your answer was poverty. there are 7 billion people on planet earth many of whom are poor. you know what they report last year. what change?
texas is playing that price. the other answer was a pandemic, mr. secretary blaster this a pandemic. it's the lowest rated illegalt' immigration 45 years janney of 2021 and the pandemic does not appear in january 2021, what appeared was joe biden, comley harris and policies that are inhumane, cruel and that are failing. >> senator it was a border secure last year? >> last year was the most secure it's been 45 years for. >> if that's the case why didn't you all pass the bag modernization act blaster after past the house? you tell me got to secure the border? >> i am not lindsey graham paid luck, i understand there have been democrats and republicans supporting amnesty, i ain't one of them. so i get that you are not you want amnesty, i get your invitation is come to america, forget the legal processes.
>> out a workforce it's going to continue to support the greatest agriculture and food it is to the world, that is what i would like to have senator. >> i think you wanted him to respond customer. >> senator eve taken it more time than any other senator this morning we please wrap up. >> this is a crisis. this administration caused it. and this committee does not even care to have a hearing on the suffering that is happening at the border that is caused by policies that don't work. >> thank you, senator cruz. i see senator is off the boat will be back shortly. he will preside at that point and ask questions i think. senator ville sacked for his patients but let me address question i'm sorry i'm getting virtual information here. i understand senator booker is available virtually very. >> yes i am paired. >> mr. chairman and really for your recognizing me. i'm also grateful for the
secretary of agriculture. he and i have not agreed across the board on thingsor but he is such a man of civility, and dignity that i know he is open to all senators to engage in constructive dialogue. especially on things we agree on in this country. and we need to move forward. i just want to give him a tribute. i know these hearings are not always easy but he has been so accessiblet and having sub in the substantiveve conversations on subjects that matter to million of americans i worked very hard with others to find common ground for today is aan day i especially want to celebrate his dignity and civility and his willingness to roll up his sleeves and not work with anybody. there are farmworkers three quarters of them are foreign born on half are undocumented. it's undeniable that america relies very heavily at immigrants documented and undocumented to keep food on our tables.
for my, vantage point the issues have numerous implications for the sources of our food have humanitarian implications, economic health and has been discussed national security. my first question is, governor ville sacked what concerns you most right now about this labor crisis in the agricultural sector? what are some of the things having you worried and concerned? >> a couple off things. the protection of workers to make sure they are in safe and decent working conditions. reto the extent we do not fix this particular broken system that compromises the ability of us to continue to have this incredibly strong food and agriculture industry. compromises are bills you have supply, compromises our ability to have choice,
compromises less expensive food in the grocery store, compromises our abilities have the jobs that are connected to these workers when they pick the fruit. has to be processed, has pecan comments be transported, sb stored, and sb shelves, all those are jobs that are connected to their work. and has a rippling impact effect on the economy. if we fix the system we have stability in the egg sector which provides an enormous choice for consumers, less expensive food for consumer and better jobs and betteridno protections. >> thank you sir. you know i have a tremendous concern about the growing corporate consolidation in the food system. they control 90% of the global grain market the top four beef packers in the united states now control 85% of the beef market.
we have seen the stunning disappearance of independent family farmers being driven out of business as the market power of the large multinational corporations have transformed american agriculture and a matter of decades. i just want you to know this is an ongoing crisis. if you could give for your record your opinion on what this market consolidation the kind of impact it is having on small family farmers? >> i know you are with this earlier 89.6% of farms today do not produce the majority of income for the farm families that operate them. which means these people have to work twowof and three jobs o do what they love to do. that's one of the reasons why the president signed executive order and competition. one of the reasons we recently announced utilizing some of the american rescue plan resources to increase processing capacity so we have a more transparent, more competitive and more open market for our producers it's one of the reasons by the executive order also directs
us to look at this issue of consolidation in the seat industry which we intend to do. all of it is designed to provide opportunities for more competitive markets for farmer so they get better prices and to make sure the inputs that go into the prediction of crops and livestock are reasonablyly priced and open market way as well. we have to make sure folks at every level support diversity in agriculture, the size of operation, the method of production. i think diversity is a great strength that we went to sears resilient.re >> i thank you for your time. with a few seconds left and turn it back over to my friend and our chairman dick durbin, thank you. >> thank you very much senator booker. senator kennedy? >> thank you, mr. chairman welcome.
mr. secretary, i note you want to see our farmers prosper. i went to see our farmers prosper. it appears that to prosper our farmers they need labor. and it appears in many of the people who are new to our country want to work as farm laborers. and that is a good thing. and i know there are shortages in that respect. and it seems to me we ought to figure out a way to work together to achieve that end. the problem as you know is in in our immigration policy. normally i ask questions but i want to spend a second coming
from where i come from. i do not completely understand it. our border is not secure. it's less secure today than it was in september. if you go down there you will see that. i think we could secure it. americans have done extraordinary things. we can unravel the human genome. we can take a disease human heart and replace it with a new one and make it beat. we can send a person to the moon. i suspect we can secure the border. and it seems to me until we do or certainly get it more secure than it is now, that amnesty is not going to pass in the united states senate.
and here is what perplexes me. many of my friends do not support securing the border. embedding people at the border is racist. now i think it is prudent. i think most americans think it is prudent. i can understand the racist charge. i do not agree with that but i can understand it if we did not have such a robust legal immigration program. we admit more than a million of our neighbors to become citizens. more than any otherrs country. and we make a clear distinction between legal and illegal immigration. in think most americans think
legal immigration is good and illegal is bad. it's not because they are nd racist. most americans see our border as america's front door. and most americans lock their own front door at night. they don't do that because they hate everybody on the outside. they do that because they love the people on the insight and they want to knowha who's coming into their home. they do not want to keep everybody out they just want to know who is coming into theirey home. i don't understand what we can't do that. i know it is not in your purview but i just don't understand why the biden administration does not re- amplify the remaining mexico program. of course the mexico citizens say they do not like it. but if we trade hard with them they will do it. they can stem the flow.
>> center can i ask you a question about what you just said? several suggested this is about amnesty but i am puzzled by that. the reason i'm puzzled by that is this. i know you're a lawyer by training, aims to practice in a small town, did a little criminal work. a guy would come in, be charged with some petty crime, would go in front of the magistrate. the magistrate would say to me look here's the deal. if your guys pays a fine, pays court costs, we will put him on probation and let him go. now, i did not perceive that to be amnesty. i perceive that to be a system that basically created some mechanism for acknowledging wrongdoing. providing something of value in our criminal justice system
in the provide your time the vibe being locked away so in this bill provides for the payment of a fine of $1000 i do not understand what we are talking about amnesty. so can you help me understand that? >> is that okay mr. chairman? because it is amnesty. and i think most americans see it as amnesty. i see it as amnesty. they see it as you came into our country get lineville in terms thought the forms by paying a fine to get to jump the line. they also know people are poor there's a lot of reasons for it.
it's also a principal matter. as any form of amnesty and i may disagree on the definition. until i see a concerted effort to seeyo the border. clearly there isn't one. i've been there mr. secretary. if you go down the you will see. in december we were. you know that was not the case or so effort to pass that bill we had done a better job in december. but the american people wanted to see. they don't trust washington there's a reason you and i and all of us in washington d.c. and part of government poll right there with skim milk.
the american people don't trust us. they went to see a border secured they want to see good faith effort on both sides to make sure it's secured for an extended period of time. yes the border was more secure december than it is now. i know fair-minded person can disagree if that. of my democratic friends completely bashed every time the trump administration from doings that. there's no feeling among the american people this is going to be sustained. i think ifng we had a bipartisan effort to really secure the border as best we can for a sustained period of time you would see the american people very sympathetic to a discussion of t amnesty.
drafted someone drafted it on tipurpose. >> thank you for your indulgent mr. chairman. thank you. >> thank you. now senator durbin is off to vote he will return and a few minutes to ask questions. that will put you through to the second panel. first the point of clarification. i think some of my colleagues questioning through their statements of cost a little confusion. not sure ifnk it is intentional or unintentional. but secretary bill set can you clarify for everybody watching us here today are you the secretary of homeland security. >> i'm a secretary of agriculture senator perry. >> thank you for much i thought coming intoo this.
i will have my questions are properly so agriculture and agricultural industry. second i feel compelled to respond to so my colleagues regarding the reconciliation projects to advance about immigration reform by felt they would be fruitful i would absolutely some of our colleagues, i support this, ie support that, the
contradiction makes no sense when others have suggested you try to do the been successful for years and years and years that's the scope of what were trying to do to a more peaceful approach you can't have it both ways. >> in 2019 california produce $50 billion in agricultural commodities, california alone. as i mentioned earlier the state is a a major exporter makes up 60% $21.7 billion. in addition, more than one third of the country's fruits and nuts are grown in california including 80% of the global supply of almonds
and nearly 90% of u.s. grown strawberries. yet california other states across the country are facing the chronic labor shortage you have spoken to already paid the american farm bureau federation estimates that in total u.s. agriculture needs 1.52 million hired workers each year. but farmers are struggling to fill these positions. in 2019, prior to the pandemic 56% of california for the main crop over the last five years. again that was prior to covid. mr. secretary, about 40000 workers represent california's agricultural workforce, upwards of 70% of workers c are undocumented. given the overrepresentation of undocumented immigrants in this industry, how could providing a pathway to legalization for farmworkers
bolster the u.s. economy and trade c relations? lex itt would provide stability to western growers, saturday. that's where the western growers through the house and senate they can plan they can make determinations about expansion opportunities but they can figure out ways in which they can be more productive. they support all the jobs until essential in the supply chain the number one agricultural states that can benefit and expand opportunities in california how have a positive impact on agricultural generally. as indicatedin it's about 20% of
the american economies with the end of the day it would provide for a more robust, stronger more stable american economy. >> hyper shaker description on that. the benefits become law. could you shed more light in more detail short of passage of some of the challenges operational and otherwise in thede agricultural sector because the work force is not current? >> many of the farmers talk at the average age ofic the american farmer today is nearly 60 years of age. many of these farmers are trying to determine what their drink next in terms of the next-generation print they do not feel they have access to additional workers they mayy constrain the size of their operations at the end of the debris those operations may not be as profitable. that may result in the sale of
those lands and the production of agricultural activity, agricultural land in the country. would lose about 200,000 acres of land every single day already. that would probably see an acceleration of that. ultimately over time if we do tinot guilty issue and do not provide stability, ultimately over time you will continue to see the economic challenges of agriculture continue to mount. and eventually it could compromise the security we seek currently enjoy which is the ability to produce all the food we need for our own people as well as for exports. >> thank you, thank you. next for questions i recognized senator also often joining us virtually. >> thank you, mr. chairman, thank you secretary bill sack for your service and for your testimony today. farm workers in georgia and across the country make it possible to feed the american
people to help feed the world and yet the story i have heard from so many farmworkers are appalling. twenty hour shifts, folks who are sleeping in vans exposed to extreme heat, exposed to pesticides and chemical fertilizers without adequate protection, making very little money. often paid less than minimum wage. often subject to other forms of abuse and harassment. do you believe these conditions do prevail as i have heard from so many farmworkers into me places across our country those work in the field to feed our countryy centered of the farm
workforce modernization act provides an opportunity provides an opportunity for decent housing adequate opportunities it reforms the h2 ace system that provides a series of protections as well. more folks can benefit from that system and makes it easier for farmers to utilize that system. many of the workers come from five states one is your state of georgia as was the chair state of california. at the end of the day it creates a mechanism by which people understand what their rights are able to protect themselves through normal processess.
there is a mediation process. there is a shortening if you will have the ability to raise concerns about working conditions so that people can get relief sooner. there are a series of steps again it's a compromise bill it's important to emphasize the fact all political perspectives have come together in support of this bill because they understand and appreciate how essential it is to better working conditions and a stronger and more stable farmo economy. i would hope what you would explain our very limited circumstances in agriculture today and hope with this act we'd see even fewer of the circumstances. >> thank you mr. secretary pete of course the pandemic is putt tremendous strains on cultural supply chains labor markets, taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture what are some of the most significant challenges
that in your view georgia farmers and farmers across the country face in their efforts to hire farmworkers? >> that starts with a cumbersome process that requires multiple applications, a lot of paperwork, not the use of digital technology to make it simpler and easier. and that discouragesrw or makes it more difficult to get the workforce on a timely basis. the results offo that, the reality is timing matters. i don't plan at the right time you harvest at the right time it impacts the price you have in a the market challenges for farming operation to the extent we have a stable and secure system that's predictable, it allows farmers and ranchers that allows them
to be as profitable as possible it ensures there's an adequate wage work incredibly hard. it begins to send a message for the central workforce is a perspective of respect. those who work in her processing facilities are granted with not paid as much attention to them as we need too. but when it came to protecting our food supply during the midst of the pandemic, the height of the pandemic those folks showed up. they showed up at the risk of their own lives and did so in large part motivated to take care of their families. that is a value system i would hope we would continue to support in this country. >> well said mr. secretary. we should be guided by her commitment to human rights and human dignity's theater
continued commitment to georgia farmers you commit the next time yousi come to georgia he willor sit down with me, our local t agricultural leaders as well as those who are leading georgia's trade efforts. of course for the port of savannah or the fastest-growing ports in theer country to discuss how we can work together to expand it georgia farmer access to export markets around the world very. >> that it if you sweeten your offer with a slice of pecan pie, it is a deal. [laughter] >> done lynn ford senior there next year helps. >> let the record reflects the commitment that has been made here today. i want to thank secretary bill sack for joining us, thank you for your testimony and insight pay will proceed to the second
panel, senator durbin has returned i will turn the gavel to him to introduce the witnesses for the second panel. those who are here in person please comport at this time. >> special thanks the secretary of agriculture mention at the at set they appear before the judiciary committee please do not wait so long to come back you are always welcome pre-thank you for your service to our country. we have a second panel coming up. i will tell you who they are. rene is a farmer for my home state of illinois. she and her husband joel open
and operate a grain farm and woodstock. she and joel were dairy farmers for 40 years. there dairy herd is on the highest producing farms in illinois, good for you. they received several awards for production and milk quality. seconduc we have rodriguez almost legendary status we are honored you are here. the united farm workers of america are ufw spent five years with ufw the last 25 as our president continuing to build the union that began. folsom enjoined by shay myers but have a confession to make mr. myers. my television appetite starts with the bears. news cbs sunday morning which i hardly ever miss. i happen to see that show i
think it was two weeks ago three. fellow named myers i would like to have on a panel before the senate judiciary committee because the powerful presentation that you made. mr. myers is a third generation farmer and the ceo of hawaii produce based in idaho agribusiness. in the honorable leon is a comments event production correctly? thank you for it is a witness whose brought before us by senator grassley is not here at the moment. i will say this about him, he is a two day edge and attorney with more politics and public policy provides legal business advice to clients on many matters including immigration for his clients include seven the nation's largest h2h employers during your career in and out of government you advise house andat senate offices, agencies and the
white house served as assistant secretary of labor for policy of the s department of labor under president george w. bush and your legal counsel to the senate republican leader mitch mcconnell. >> the other witness suggested on the republican side hill be with us virtually is ms. jen sorensen grew up on a hog farm in southeast iowa, now way i see what she was nominated when on to receive degrees in animal science in journalism from iowa state. ms. sorenson works his directive given occasions for iowa select farms the farming business markers with 5 million hogs per year. so the president the national pork producers vice president iowa pork producers work for iowa and iowa select farms for the nextnt decade. finally that she manages all activities of the hansen foundation, founded in 2016 to
deal with issues of food security for jen and her husband and daughter live in ankeny i hope i so that correctly. and start this panel, each of you if you would please rise and raise your right hand. >> all of you please. >> do for the test may about to give before this committee is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? >> we do bird. >> thank you. but the record reflect they answered in the affirmative. each of you has five minutes and then some questions. >> good morning. i guess maybe it's good afternoon chair durbin, ranking member astley and members of the committee thank you for the opportunity to testify today. my name is linea i'm a farmer andpo woodstock, illinois.
my husband joel and i were dairy farmers for over 40 years. her both raised on dairy farms. years ago labor on farms was all provided by family members. but as dairy farms have increased in size, hired labor has become a critical part of the business. our dairy herd included 300 cows and 250 young animals. with three full-time employees. about the year 2000 we switch tong an immigrant workforce. we had been having a lot of frustration with their labor pool. it was very hard to find employees willing to be at the farm at 4:00 a.m. in the morning to milkn cows. our day started at 4:00 a.m. and finished at 7:00 p.m. that was seven days a week. after switching to an immigrant workforce our lives became much easier. our people were loyal, dedicated workers. they were excellent with the cattle, they were hard-working and they were honest. there also highly skilled and
well-trained. we are extremely proud of our team t. our decision to sell our cowardss in 2018 was in part because we were worried about losing our workforce. the atmosphere regarding immigrants in the workforce was hostile. we knew we could not run this business without them and at our age we decided to sell the cows. this was definitely not an o easy decision. i'mm here to tell you how essential these workers are to all dairy farmers. and critical to our nations food supply. 51% of laborers on dairy farms is from immigrants. they employ immigrant later produce 79% of the u.s. milk supply. these are not jobs that are displacing other workers. iran my dairy farm with my husband for over 40 years.
and i can decisively say the domestic workers just are not there. even with good pay and good benefits. our dairy farmer friends are telling us the situation has gotten worse since we left the industry. they are in crisis mode today protect say that with a capitol c. the farm families and dedicated employees are working to the point of exhaustion, which has a direct impact on the quality of the work. they are sacrificing a great deal because there are just not enough workers to serve the labor needs on farms. i'm worried about the toll on their physical and mental health. dairy farmers are resilience, their creative problem solvers but they cannot fix this problem. only you can fix it. this labor shortage will not go away after the covid recovery. theot urgency of the workforce crisis cannot be overstated.
dairy farmers on a difficult spot because they cannot supplement their workforce with h2h2h employees. h2h visas do not work for dairy farms because they need qualified year round employees. i am here to plead with you to help the industry that i love. and my friends were dairy farmers are up against the wall. one farmer told me he started to think about robotic milkers. but he says the cost is astronomical and he does not know how he can pay for with this 500 cows. if the u.s. it dairy industry lost its foreign workforce it would nearly double retail milk prices and cost the u.s. economy within $32 billion according to a study by texas a&m university. these are the choices, do we want our food produced in this country will we have the safest food supply in the world? the labord crisis on our farms is an issue of national security and must be addressed
now. this will require two critical reforms. first we must protect our current workers. they deserve the chance to work towards citizenship. they are critical to our nations food supply and they are good human beings. second we must reform h2h set dairy farmers have info access to a legal guesswork program. the bipartisan bill passed by the house of representatives would make progress toward achieving both of these goals. i just plead with you, please come together on a bipartisan basis as the house did. reform ourur immigration policies so that today and intosi the future we continue to feed our nation with the reliable workforce and have a safe, abundant and dependable food supply, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you.
mr. rodriguez. >> thank you chairman durbin, ranking member grassley and members of the committee. i sit before your president emeritus of the farm workers and representative of the foundation. thank you for the opportunity to address you today. for nearly two decades people working tirelessly to achieve reform the program that would not be possible the leadership of senator feinstein. the food security rely on approximate 2.4 million farm workers about half are undocumented and 10% are workers here of h2h visas. in the united states represented in this committee alone there are more than 1 million farm workers. to feed the nation there with
dairy cows for milk production, attend livestock for meat and canned fruits and vegetables. today we have with this five women to join with me here today sitting right behind me. some of them started working in agriculture as young as five years old. collectively, the five women behind me and their immediate family members have more than 220 years in agriculture. their families make it possible their families have earned the path to legalization. lack of legal status, the
shameful history of excluding the history from labor laws makes farm workers in foldable to range of abuses. the h2h program is a visa category linked to the highest number of documented human trafficking cases, cases in georgia california louisiana among theit top five farmworkers to live and work without fear, to be treated with respect and to hold their children comments parents again too visitre loved ones or they are ill and attend funerals when they depart. to achieve a farmer legalization we have made lots of compromises. together with employers we have struck three major different bipartisan deals.
in 2006 and again in 2013, bills to legalize our farm workforce and reform the h2h program or integrated into broader immigration bills that passed this chamber with overwhelming support. in 2019, b during a dramatically different environment we spent seven months in negotiations with aggie employers, democrats and republicans. we have made serious again and what is now the farm workforce modernization act. a bill that is past the house twice now with more than 30 republicans supporting that bill. some of these changes have been painful paid the bill creates an earned lengthy and optional path for farmworkers to seek permanent legal status. putting farmworkers on it long path to permanent protections, excluding them from access to
social safety net programs and imposing a steep fine for their essential work is not the best way to honor the people who have been breaking their bodies and putting their lives at risk to feed the nation. but we agreed to these compromises. we also agreed to provide employers with the one year on wages, an annual cap on wage fluctuations and access to the program for year-round employers. these concessions, along with a number of changes to streamline the program, give h to a employers the ability to predict cost over the long term and will conservatively provide aggie employers with more than $2.8 billion in economic benefits over the next ten years. it also includes ee verify. the time is now. we have a house of representatives that is passed
this bill twice. we have a president is ready to sign it and now we need the senate use every tool at its disposal to honor the people that we rely on to feed our nation and bring civility to the egg industry. thank you very much. >> thank you mr. rodriguez,, mr. myers? >> i would like to start by thanking chairman durbin and ranking member grassley and the rest of the committee to share my experience speak on an issue that'ss very near and dear to my hearts. this bill is not about labor shortage of people skipping ahead of i the line for this is about the american dream, the american voter and the viability of america that allows the dreamers to dream and the voters to create the change they dream of. i grew up in a very special place in organs a population of just 3000 people. about 50% are whiten and 50%
latino. those latino folks arms exclusively from mexico and arrived in our area, was originally arrived as a migrant fieldworkers. when i was in school my friends name was martha or mario evident on both wrote we called mario o with two different cultures together we ate each other's food, try to speak each other's at native language. and most importantly we worked side-by-side in fields and on the farm. admittedly some of us only did it to work for extra spending castle others did it out of necessity to pay rent and keep the lights on. regardless of the reason we understood each other better because of it. that iss why today as a friend and a farmer i am here to add b my voice to that of latino farmworkers. f these farmworkers come to the united states from mexico for the same reason my great-grandparents came from germany. and for the same reason yours might've come from ireland, scotland, poland, cuban, holland, britain, russia, japan, or try to break the
outcome to create a better future for themselves and especially better future for their children. let's be honest with ourselves, the last 36 years of policies and political failures have led us here. now is the time to act. it is not ethical, it is not economically viable and it is not safe to kick this can down the road yet again. it is not ethical because for the last two and half decades we allow people across our southern border in the system allow them to bese employed in the united states. if you found yourself in it a position we are unable to clothe and feed your family can you honestly answer that you not do the same? it is also not ethical for congress to fail to act again. it is not economically viable america's farms, ranches cannot operate their businesses about sufficient labor. this year we lost one or% of the season's profits because we are unable to get domestic workers when her 30 workers were delayed at the border for
nine bas beyond our day of need paid 90 days after we needed w them. we left nearly 300,000 pounds of asparagus. i had to go online and give it away to any food pantry or family that was going to come harvest it. it is not safe because we can't get workers here we cannot harvest the crop or if we can't harvest the crop can't feed your preacher we can change to mechanized low labor conflict born, barley, wheat but is not the best use of our nation's water, soil, natural resources but do we need 10 million acres of corn? america is arl grown produce was essential to her survival in fruits and vegetables not just corn and soy are basic necessities for healthy society and economy. if you just see the canary in the cold by what comes to u.s. production let's look at u.s. asparagus production rate acres harvest in the usa have plummeted over 85% since 2004. california now only a six on acres of asparagus as recent as 2004 they had 25000. asparagus is extremely
difficult crop to harvest. it requires long hours and many hours spent been over at the waist but is so physically challenging and because labor so scarce as the first crop to leave the united states since 1994 over 90% of all >> production is left this country. i still grow asparagus but i cannot for much longer if we do not have a workforce and an immigration policy that works. not alone on this. american workers went fair wages, lower emissions and the safest food with lowest pesticides as possible. workers work eight hours a day considered the minimum like online. if these other countries there are no forced emission standards if you travel south of the parties see smoke and fumes allowed to build from smokestacks and exhaust pipes purdue not get me started on food safety standards or pesticide use restrictions of these other countries.
while visiting farms in mexico and central america personally witnessed raw sewage being mixed in with irrigation water and pesticides not allow the unites is for decades being sprayed on crops of workers where this is going to sonic hyperbole but i believe that if wepr continue on her current trajectory and without some protections for cheap imports virtually all vegetable production, all vegetable production in the united states will end within a decade. i strongly urge this committee to take action on farm worker monitoring his asian act which must include green cards for those of keep keep america fed and consistent access to labor for farmers. the farm work force modernization act is one step, many more are desperately needed and the direction itt ethically right, economically smart and safe policy. thank you all for your time i look forward to questions bread. >> thank youec mr. myers. >> thank you.
chairman durbin, ranking member grassley and members of the committee, push it the opportunity to testify today but the importance of farmworkers thoracotomy and how to best address the shortage of workers under nations farms. i have worked on unemployment innovation policy for nearly 20 years including the staffer in this body and the assistant secretaryn of labor and advising clients in private practice. i represent employers across the country training from small family farms with a few employees to complex family farming operations with thousands of employees. and let me begin by noting i'm testifying today my personal capacity and on behalf of any client. the worker shortage of our farms continues to get worse o with each passing year. and is threatening the future viability of labor intensive agriculture in america. farm work is honest, honorable and necessary work for their simile not enough u.s. workers willing to do it. that is h been true for decades and it is true regardless of the unappointed rate.
congress long ago recognized it this one was renamed the program in 1996 burdette program remains a the only option for farmers to fill their seasonal labor needs. threats history the programs and plate become catered regulations, bureaucratic inefficiencies, high cost, processing delays, the exclusion of some agricultural sectors altogether but despite the numerous shortcomings farmers simply have no other option. the steadily worsening situation produce dramatic growth over the past 15 years. in 2000 by the department of labor certified about 40000 -- 48000 positions filled by workers in 2020 the numbers 275,000. these numbers secure the fact growth and use of the program is slowed in response but at a
serious disadvantage in the marketplace. recently h employers in some states have seen their mandated wage rates increased by 10:15 and even 23% in a single year. our exceeding general growers face numerous other costs associated with the program including a requirement to housing.ree labor costs for a special crop farmer could be 40% or more the total production cost. h2h costs rise farmers are falling further behind. in recent years most farms have seen little if any increase in the price they receive for the crops where there is no margin to absorb rising production costs and you're competing for space on grocery store shelves with imported feuds and vegetables for americans which eat food and that government policies pricing is farmers out of the market. thirty years ago the u.s. was
a global net exporter of fruits and vegetables. today we import more than twice as much as we export. nowhere is this disparity more evident than our trade with mexico. in the past 15 years imports from mexico into the u.s. have tripled. in 2019 reimported more than $15 billion worth of fruits and vegetables from mexico while exporting just over a billion dollars worth. much of this is explained by the cost of production in each country. in 2021 the minimum wage in mexico was about $7 per day. by contrast, the nationwide average wage in h2h program is more than $14 per hour. sixteenti times higher than mexico. it does not take a phd in economics to recognize the fruits and vegetables can be grown and harvested in mexico, shipped to the u.s. and sold in grocery stores for prices far below what it caused a u.s. farmer to grow the crop. recent legislation while may
be well-intentioned not meaningfully address this problem. the house built proposed a few limited improvements to the program it also contains numerous provisions of action make the program even more expensive, more bureaucratic and impose huge new legal liabilities on farmers. the house bill would also legalize undocumented farmworkers, while there may be reasons to extend legal status to these workers, doing so will not alleviate the labor shortages on american farms. in fact is we sell the 1986 legalization, these workers will soon leave the farm in pursuit of other opportunities in the economy, leading to further farm related shortages. mr. chairman, hopefully this committee will have an opportunity to consider legislation that provides farmers with an h2h program that is, responsive and ensures american farms can be competitive in the international marketplace.
must be simpler more efficient thank you again for the opportunity today. >> thank you. >> chairman durbin, ranking member grassley members of the committee i appreciate the opportunity to discuss an issue of critical importance to u.s. producers and all of u.s. livestock agriculture premade name is jen sorensen i'm a communications director for iowa select farms at west des moines, iowa and president of the national pork producers council and national association representing the interest of more than 60000 u.s. pork producers. u.s. pork industry supports more than 5000 message jobs, generates more than 39 billion in gross national product exports increasing volume of products which in 2020 was valued at more than $7.7 billion. utah farmers are proud to provide an affordable
nutritious to consumers at home and around the globe print important of the u.s. pork industry is suffering from serious labor shortage. negatively impacting our farms and practicing plans. as any pork producer will tell you there is no pork season requires ael full-time hard-working and dedicated workforce on our farms and processing plants. there is an increasing need for employees throughout the entire pork supply chain. but there's been a steady decline in world population growth or most farms and harvestee facilities are located. this has resulted in a labor shortage for u.s. hog farmers, and harvest operators. the too six objects support industry rages average roughly $1475 an hour and across the country including a rural areas with a local minimum wage is much lower part however despite solid wages and benefits, according to a study bywh economists at iowa state w university, native farm
workers and permanent residents simply cannot offset the need for foreign bornts tylabor. current visa programs designed to agriculture such as the h2h visa program, failed to meet the workforce needs and the u.s. pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers. now, more than ever we need a dedicated year-round workforce. : : we need a dedicated year-round work force. the u.s. pork industry is proud of divrgsty on our farms and across the entire supply chain. for many foreign-born employees, a position has provided and created opportunity to come to our country and become an integral part of our rural communities. last month i like the vital role more and more workers across our industry. one ofea our employees featuredn the campaign, christina, a technical training manager in
oklahoma, christina born in mexico and grub raising cattle came to the u.s. and taxing 2000 brief to obtain masters degree. she is the leader in national recruiter farms and employees to help with production. she's a stelar employee well-respected amongst her colleagues in a 2020, and excellent reward from the council. working in the pork industry creates opportunity for justina and so many others to come to the u.s. and become integrated in their communities. we are proud of our diversity throughout the supplyth chain in reform may the continued production of our year-round industry. earlier this year u.s. house of representatives passed the worker modernization act of 2021 which seeks to address agricultural laborsee offering year-round fees us.
while it's still a step in the right direction, a force different sectors of livestock agriculture to compete against one another with the same limited number of year-roundtu fees us. in that scenario, no one went ultimately the consumer will be punished with pork supplies and higher prices of the store. if the labor shortage is not addressed, it could lead to bonds and packing plants shutting down. as a result, production would be strained leading to higher food prices for consumers and the united states becoming ann unreliable trading partner for the manyk countries around the world that rely on our work. urging congress to address pressing matter by opening the visapo program, year-round labor without cap, our industry is vital to the u.s. economy and prosperity in rural communities. more and more forces are an
essential part of our supply chain and we need visa reform to reflect our year-round needs and look forward to working with members of this committee and other lawmakers to achieve this outcome. thank you for the opportunity to testify and i look forward to questions. >> thank you to all of you. i'm glad you were here for the earlier part of the hearing on members were asking questions because i think it puts into political perspective why we have failed for 36 years to pass any immigration reform bills. this nation of immigrations, he would think would have to modifn laws from time to time to reflect the reality in america and other issues that have come before us and get we have been stopped in our tracks unable to move and some of the statements made earlier by a few of myab colleagues may give insight into why that is case.om
what they call amnesty and a citizen of the united states, the message is going to go out around the world, the doors are open in the united states and you can find your way in, all you have to do is present yourself at the border. i think there are many reasons, at least 1 million why the argument fails because each year we allow million people ton become citizens of this country. naturalization ceremonies are going on today, one of our staffers has a father going a through that ceremony today. so when really newcomers to america show up regularly and part of who we are and get it doesn't send a message to the whole world but the doors are wide open, many have struggled their whole lifetime to be eligible for citizenship. mr. rodriguez, you know these workers better than anybody. tell me what you think about the argument of amnesty and the fact that we are dealing with
disease, terrorists, drug runners who are going to come to this country and make itt worse. >> i think the reality is we have worked hard with the egg industry and republicans and democrats especially in these last few years trying to develop this workforce modernization act legislation to ensure those workers working here today in agriculture will continue working for years to come as a result we felt that is likely to bring as a result because of the fact that we are doing that, they can't even get into this legislation or be part of the program unless the two previous years worked a certain amount of time and agriculture just to enter into the program itself and get certified agriculture worker status so that alone prevents an onslaught of people coming into our country in order
to be able to be part of program that will be allowed. in addition for them to obtain any other type of legal status in the country, they will have to minimally work another four years in agriculture, and only. >> like so many other witnesses, he made a sacrifice tocu come he today from the border and i'm thinking, appreciating your presentation first on cbs and then again today. a likely witness to come before us with the witness. asparagus, and organ basically telling us got to give these people some dignity and opportunity, is not a factor of growing up with the community you describe? >> i have been privileged to live -- lots of folks think of
small towns, a very diverse group of people in my hometown and back appreciation, that love we have for one another warms my opinion of a lot of things and i will add personal experiences i've seen with those working toward employees or schoolmates and the reality of immigration system their circumstances and what the result and consequence of the decisions others made for them. >> i was consulting because we have additional roll call so do you dispute the statement made repeatedly that half of the farmworkers in this country are undocumented?do >> i think that's the best data available from a conducts regular surveys of farmworkers, and present surveys and the result shows at least 50% epic
to be in the country without legal status. >> if we were to rigidly enforce the laws be deported and what you predicted, the decline of america, american fruits and vegetables and accelerated, wouldn't it? >> i think that's fair. i might also say i happen to agree that i think consumers becoming more discerning and asking more questions about what they are by i've got a lot of friends who look carefully at the origin of fruits and vegetables and lean toward the united states and higher standards. do you oppose the notion and pass to undocumented farmworkers? >> i don't have an opinion on the issue, the question is, what is thell purpose for legalizati?
as i noted in my testimony, there are good reasons people cancel forward to legalize current undocumented workforce for me, the question is, what does it do for agriculture and availability of labor while he may legalize workers here in your legal status, it doesn't do any measures to help the labor shortage. >> he ran into a farmworker, been there 20 years working as a farmworker unable to leave the country because he's undocumented to visit his family in mexico so if this became law, he would instantly become a citizen and decide to open a franchise restaurant, nine years at least do it because for he becomes naturalized, at least nine years so the suggestion is, at least to me he will continue to be a farmworker for that period of time but he gets to visit his family, is that a bad thing? >> that the question for this
body to decide, i look at this issue from the perspective of my client and agricultural workforce and these people are working currently in agriculture performing very difficult jobs and certainly many of them without legal status. providing legal status would have certainly benefits for those workers into their employers but again that doesn't help larger agricultural problems of labor shortages and that can only be done through the reform of the visa program. the present mentioned, i don't think that's an uncommon story. without authorization and have become trapped in the h u.s. because of failure of the visa system. if they have the ability and v travel back and forth across the border, many would. most farmworkers are interesteda in becoming u.s. citizens. they want legal status to come and work because they can't turn
16 times more for macon earn at home. >> 150 dollars a day, that's what you pay farmworkers if you do the math, that's what it turns out to be as opposed to $8 a day if they work in mexico. >> i want to apologize and thank senator durbin for producing my guest. i was supposed to introduce my constituent sorensen but every wednesday at noon i always have a told him news conference back to iowa with journalists and i want someone to start with sorensen. i know national pork producers consuls and others have long called for agricultural employees with year-round employment needs to have access to the h2 a program. it's an issue i've heard my
county meetings that i've had 85 so far this year. her not being able to participate in this program. >> absolutely. i counsel here repeatedly from farmers from all shapes and sizes that there are significant labor shortages on our farms because of our rural populations are declining, people are moving to urban centers and continue to recruit out of college, we continue to pray for a heavy focus on recruitingru from local labor availability but there is still a significant cap on our farms. 24/7, every single day we are
out there taking care of our animals. estimations show that we are ready five -- 30% short on our farms throughout the u.s. pork industry and our range. the h2 a program year-round age to a program is the only type of program that matches the size of the issues our industry currently faces. >> you expressed testimony some concerns you have with the bill before us, can you explain of a more detailed like you e find te bills cap on the number of h to a workers second go to year-round employees and be problematic and how it would impact employers you represent. >> it goes back to the significant volume employee and worker shortages and we would
not find ourselves in a situation competing against fellow livestock farmers and that is why we ask for uncapped h2 a program and also year-round to a program. we were definitely in support of the farmworker modernization act those two pieces, it would be an excellent solution for u.s. pork producers as we lookde at fulfilling labor on our farms. >> i know your testimony references the extreme volatility in these rates along with what, in your view, a flock mythology used to calculate this wage rate for the benefit of the committee, can you explain how the h to a adverse effect
calculated in the extent to which it poses challenges for farmers and agricultural employees? >> i could depending on how much time you have. [laughter] it not an easy issue to explain but in general age to a rate is determined based on labor survey by the department of agriculture. based upon responses they obtain from farmers, they calculate average wage rate over multistate areas. the wage rate is used by the department of labor as mandatory minimum wage to be paid in the program. it is extremely volatile as i noted in my testimony, virtually always upward by ten, 15, even 20% or more over the last five
years on average, it's been up 20% but again depending on where you live in the country it could be much higher. >> this is my last program, it gives you a chance to tell us some changes to the bill knowing fails, it falls short, what are your top two or three reforms you think congress should consider in this program in order to make it more workable for farmers? >> in addition to already once been mentioned, that of the cost structure in the program as proposed in modernization act is unworkable. in fact, it were spent theni status quo. it would fundamentally change the way wage rates are administered, leading to even higher wages in the future. beyond that, the bill opens up an entirely new avenue for litigation against farmers, new
private action allowing workers agto pursue farmers authorized s class action mandatory fees, mandatory award. that would be detrimental to all of agriculture although it might be beneficial to lawyers, i don't think it is a good idea or good public policy. all for you participating in this hearing, particularly i think my colleague -- or my constituent from iowa. >> thank you to all the witnesses for participating today. a couple of questions i may be the last before we adjourn. coming back to the urgent topic of covert, farmworkers deemed essential during the pandemic as we have discussed repeatedly here today but as a result, farmworkers continue to work on the front line of our food
supply chain and often had few resources to protect themselves dfrom but covid-19 virus. nearly 600,000 farmworkers contracted covert and for food and agricultural workers in california, they have experienced the highest access mortality during the pandemic but the 39% increase compared to previous years. for latinos specifically, mortality rate increased reached 59%. according to the national agricultural workers survey, about one third of u.s. firm focused with below federal poverty level and fewer than half have health insurance or sufficient paid sick leave. that's not a good combination we are describing here. many do not qualify for unemployment insurance or other social safety nets because of theeua undocumented status.s.
these are essential workers. as i mentioned in my earlier statement, and used citizenship sensible partnership to provide a pathway to permanency for all essential workers. can you discuss how the immigration status of farmworkers has impacted them during the pandemic? >> makes it extremely difficult, you have a worker who doesn't have legal status in our country. they first about the obligated because of the work they do and that's what they are skilled doing. that's what they are knowledge about doing today, that's the way they contribute to our nation and regards to making sure we have a secure food supply. it's not a reason for them to leave continue working in
agriculture, they continued working in showed up t everyday and production continued here within this nation, dairy farms, working there and so forth. they did all this at great risk. >> work contributions supply chain, the economy despite the risk, despite the dangerous, nothing less then heroic. the next question is for ms. sorensen. it may reference again to citizenship direct workers act that would cover more than 5 million immigrantnt workers that have continue to work and a number of sectors, not just agriculture as essential workers making sacrifices for all americans throughout the
pandemic. these workers and their households have paid $47.6 billion in federal taxes alone. an additional $25.5 million state and local taxes each and every year to significant contributions to our nation's economy. however, they don't have the pathway to permanency and live t and work in constant fear of deportation. i heard you say earlier that you support permanent status for meatpacker that clearly again for the record, meatpackers arer not eligible for eight iia status which you mentioned causes difficulty for pork producers to higher notch to. if enacted, this would put
meatpackers on the pathway to citizenship so the question is simply getting turned over. in my correct understanding you do support pathway to citizenship for the workers in your industry? >> i'm here to talk about the h iia program and i want to focus on the piecesk that provide certainty to packers and farmers. >> i know a pathway to citizenship provides that certaintyy and fairness for your industry. how one more question is critical to mention as we are facing a drought but he conditions throughout the west. as temperatures continue to risc across the country, more and more farmworkers are at risk of experiencingtr heat illness whih can cause heat cramps, organ damage, heat exhaustion, stroke or even death. between 1992 and 2017, heat
stress injuries b killed 815 u.. workers and seriously injured more than 70000. recent report published by ucla found the financial cost heat related injuries in california alone areha between 715 million and 1.25 billion dollars each year. the study found on base with high temperatures above 90 degrees fahrenheit, very, in other parts of the state, workers have a six to 9% higher risk of injury that's particularly alarming giving the ongoing increasing impact climate change. the animus and program act, direct osha to informant heat safety standard nationwide. california adopted its own standards and as a result were
placed injuries, declined significantly, as a proud supporter for standards in my prior service and state government. unfortunately it's not the case for portable workers across the country and i believe we need a national standard in place. can you discuss immigrant farmworkers have if they suffer from heat related injuries? >> certainly in the state of california we do have laws and legislation. when the legislation was passed, you drive down highway five now and highway 99 through the central valley, you will see farmers that have put up coverings, tents and so forth for the workers to go when theyh get exposed to the heat when the temperatures rise to be 90 degrees and up. they are provided with water. thatnfortunate thing is that's one of the few states
that actually have those protections for farmworkers so the majority of farmworkers still in this country are exposed to heat conditions that have caused illnesses, transpired time and time again and even deaths. we've recently had one in the state of oregon that prompted state legislation and regulations to take place there because of the fact that farmworkers work die because of the exposure to the heat they are experiencing right now. >> thank you. i have seen with my own eyes statistics of the impact of the uestate will. the fields have endured s repeatedly over the years and around fresno. amazing what a simplere conceptf a little bit of shade over the fresh water and even restroom,
take state law to bring about those improvements in these conditions for agricultural workers but if it does require state law, california has probably done it and i believe central to farmers across the country despite the state that you live and work in deserve the same protections. i want to thank all the witnesses for appearing before the committee today and for your participation on behalf of senator durbin, i am going to begin to conclude this hearing today but before i do, i want to move to enter a number of statements to the record a variety of organizations including the economic policyf institute, farmworker justice and immigration hub without objection the statements will be included in the record will close one week fromt today.
this has been a great conversation great discussion. as we have referenced so often the workforce modernization act, perhaps past a bill that will provide a path to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers and their family meaning they would be able to continue to do the work that this federal government deemed essential and will continue to be able to be able to do so without living in fear of being separated from their families. the workforce modernization act illustrates the kind ofiv refors are broken immigration system needs to help generate long-term economic establishing a more secure foundation for consumers, workers and employers while growing tax breaks and securing
our food supply chain. now it's our turn to act in the united states senate so on behalf of chairman durbin and myself, everything in our power, senator durbin and chet and myself and the judiciary subcommittee of immigrations to move forward legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers. thank you all and with that, this hearing is adjourned. [background noises] [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible] [background noises] speed c-span shop.org as she scans online store. there's a collection of c-span products, browse to see what's new. you still have time to order the congressional directory with contact information for members of congress and the biden administration. go to c-span shop.org. >> tonight on c-span2, a hearing on managing basic traffic and debris followed by former vice president mike pence speaking at a recent event in des moines iowa and later a look at and eligibility requirements for federal food assistance program.