The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Diaz-Balart, Lofgren praise Senate farm worker measure

2013_0628_LofgrenDiazBalart Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., left, and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., answer questions about a House immigration bill this morning at a Bloomberg Government event. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., today both praised the farm worker section of the Senate-passed immigration bill, but declined to say whether it would be included as written in an immigration bill they and other House members are trying to write.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Speaking at a breakfast event sponsored by Bloomberg Government and the National Restaurant Association, Diaz-Balart noted that the group of House members had met with the Ag Workforce Coalition and the United Farm Workers leaders who developed the agriculture provisions in the Senate bill, and learned “how complex the needs are of agriculture.”

The fact that “these folks got together is a very positive step” and “a very meritorious effort,” Diaz-Balart said. But he added, “That doesn’t mean we agree with every aspect” of their agreement.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

Lofgren said that 70 groups, from sheepherders to vegetable farmers, and workers reaching agreement was impressive. “It is all put together in a way that is hard to do,” Lofgren added.

Lofgren, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, said that the section in the Senate bill is “probably the best we are going to get,” in contrast to the agriculture guest worker bill that House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., sponsored and the committee approved.

Lofgren said she considered the Goodlatte bill to be an “absurd” piece of legislation because it calls on farm workers to “come forward, identify yourself, leave the country and maybe” get a chance to come back legally.

Diaz-Balart and Lofgren declined to discuss details of their overall proposal or when they would release the bill.

Diaz-Balart said House members “don’t feel pressure” from the Senate passage of the bill. The pressure, he said, comes from the need to fix the immigration situation itself, noting that it’s not good to have 11 million people in the country who want to be a part of it and are not.

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition today praised the Senate vote and said, “In the coming weeks, the AWC looks forward to working with members of the House of Representatives as that chamber begins to develop its own immigration reform proposals. We encourage House members to ensure that any legislation contains meaningful reform to meet agriculture's current and future labor needs.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said on CNN that she fears conservatives will try to kill the immigration bill the way they killed the farm bill, The Hill reported.