Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R, Lassen) will make a rare personal appearance at the Rood Center in Nevada City this morning for a town meeting on agriculture, or at least the legal part of the market.
Ag (minus marijuana) isn’t big business in this county. At just over $10 million a year, it has no impact on California’s $36 billion agriculture industry. But Dahle is a farmer and he’s smart enough to play to his strength.
In the fawning preview of his visit in The Union earlier this week, he expressed concern about the regulations that govern the way a farmer does business. “The regulatory environment is very difficult for farmers,” Dahle told the paper.
Strangely, there was no mention in the story about a major regulatory reform impacting agriculture that is being slow walked by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. That would be immigration reform.
A bipartisan effort to reform immigration policy passed the Senate earlier this year, but Speaker John Boehner said earlier this week that the House will not take action on the Senate bill.
The California Farm Bureau Federation, the largest ag organization in the state, has made it clear that it wants to see new legislation that will ease the burden of farmers who need seasonal workers.
Under current law, a visa program known as H-2A allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for temporary or seasonal work. But the program has so much red tape and restrictions that only 3,000 farm workers enter the state annually under the program.
California farmers employ about 400,000 seasonal workers in an average year. It is estimated that 70 percent of them aren’t properly documented, and a 2012 survey by CFBF found that two-thirds of its members have trouble finding enough farm workers to tend and harvest crops.
None of this will change if the immigration reform bill dies in the House. Our local representative in Congress, Doug LaMalfa, is also a farmer, but hasn’t said anything publicly about where he stands on immigration reform.
Maybe Dahle should call his congressman and encourage him to have a chat with Boehner.
KNOW YOUR ASSEMBLYMAN: Assemblyman Brian Dahle (second from the top) is pictured in a visit to Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley earlier this year.