August 1, 2013

Strawberry Growers In D.C. This Week

By Laurie Greene, Associate Editor
The California Strawberry Commission (CSC) has sent a delegation with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group to Washington, D.C. to explain the crucial need for immigration reform. The delegation intends to raise awareness of the critical role of immigrant labor in the success of California’s high-tech and agriculture industries and future job growth, as well as the overall health of the national economy. Finding a way to get a workforce here legally is of paramount importance.

According to Carolyn O’Donald, Communications Director of the CSC, the delegation members, representing the state’s two largest industries, are getting a positive response this week, thus far, from their meetings with congress people from both sides of the aisle. The group has had a number of meetings yesterday and today, and will brief White House staff tomorrow morning.

The CSC delegation has taken four strawberry growers who are between 1st-and 3rd-generation in this country from Watsonville, Salinas, Santa Maria and Orange County. They will press the need for comprehensive immigration reform, guest worker programs, and the workforce needed for the California agriculture and hi-tech industries.

“It may seem like an odd partnership between strawberries and hi tech,” O’Donald said, “but we have built a partnership with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group because we have a lot of characteristics in common. Immigrants play an integral part in both industries at the work level and at the leadership level in the running of the company."

“About 65% of our strawberry farmers are Hispanic; some of multi-generational in this country,” explained O’Donald. “Our economy is built on immigrants. They worked in coalmines, oil refineries, and steel mills, and they built this country’s infrastructure. We are still building technology and working the land, so immigrants are major lynchpins in the California economy.”

“We’ve been letting this issue fall by the wayside for a long time; since the mid-1980s we have not had any kind of immigration reform. So, we are trying to see as many people in Washington, D.C. as possible–-the dealmakers--before their August recess,” O’Donald remarked. “We are also trying to show the California delegation, particularly the republican delegation, how important it is to get this done, this year we hope.”