The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture said ‘rumors’ in California hurt the last significant immigration reform opportunity. Following his talk at the Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue fielded questions from reporters, and many revolved around immigration reform. “Whether we call it H-2A or call it something else, it really doesn’t matter to me,” Perdue said. “A reliable, legal agri-workforce that’s typically thought to be seasonal…where they can have a touchback over a couple of weeks like anyone would get a vacation. Most of these folks want to go back home…and we should create a system in this country where they can go and come freely.”
That ‘touchback’ or ‘check back’ protocol was one of the major issues California agriculture leaders had with last year’s AG Act that was part of H.R. 4760. AgNet West cited those arguments and asked Perdue if that requirement would be for current workers as well. “I disagree with you on the concept there. The bill last year did provide for an almost automatic check back where they just had to check in and may not have even had to go,” Perdue answered. “It really got bad rumors here in California, and it’s unfortunate. I think we had a real opportunity to improve this system last year and apparently we weren’t trusted well enough in some ways to take advantage of that.
Listen to the story and Perdue’s full exchange.