July 21, 2021

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Delivers Opening Statement at Immigrant Farmworkers Judiciary Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON – Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack testified today during the “Immigrant Farmworkers are Essential to Feeding America” Judiciary Committee hearing, the first-ever appearance by an Agriculture Secretary before the full Senate Judiciary Committee. During his opening statement, Vilsack discussed the important role immigrant farmworkers have in the food and agriculture industry and the overall economy. He also voiced support for passage of the bipartisan, House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021, legislation that would provide undocumented farmworkers – many of whom have lived in America for years – an opportunity to earn citizenship.

Key quotes:

“An individual who’s worked in this country for 20 years; I asked him what his hope or dream or aspiration five to 10 years from now? He said very simply, ‘I would like to see my family.’ I said what do you mean? He said, ‘I haven’t seen my family for 20 years. I’m concerned that if I leave the country, I won’t be able to get back.’ So 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 that they may never, ever see them again.”

“We have an uncertain and, we can argue, a broken immigration system. The availability of H2A workers is always in question. Wage increases and decreases are fluctuating year-to-year on an uncertain path. There’s a cumbersome process involved. There are uneven worker protections.”

“I’m here today to simply advocate on behalf of American agriculture and these workers. To plead with the Senate to fix this broken system—to maintain the capacity of this great food and agriculture industry to continue to provide the benefits we all enjoy in this country. And, at the same time provide the respect and dignity to the farmworkers who are working so hard to make this system what it is today.”

Video of Vilsack’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Vilsack’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Vilsack’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

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