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Agricultural Workers

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


AGRICULTURAL WORKERS -- (Senate - September 29, 2006)

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Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I appreciate the Senator asking the question. I began to work with American agriculture and specifically western growers in the Pacific Northwest and in the Senator's State of California starting in about 1999 when they came to me and recognized, as they now clearly know, that they were beginning to rely on an illegal workforce of undocumented workers who were coming in because the law that exists, the H-2A, was so complicated and so bureaucratic, it was simply failing them. So it has been now at least 7 years that we have worked to comprise and build the AgJOBS legislation.

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, if I may, through the Chair, is there a crisis in the State of Idaho?

Mr. CRAIG. There is a growing crisis in the State of Idaho. I would like, if the Senator from California doesn't mind, to submit for the RECORD a ``Dear Colleague'' letter that the Senator from California and I sent out late this month. It speaks of California and Idaho and Washington and Oregon. I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the RECORD.

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Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, clearly what is happening--and the Senator has said it so well--is this a failure of American agriculture or is this a failure of Congress? It is clearly a failure of Congress and the Government.

We have known our borders are porous for a long time, and we are closing them now, and we should close them. There is nothing wrong with doing that. In fact, for national security and to build an orderly process in immigration, it is critical that we do close them or control them. But we also knew that immediately attached to it had to be the creation of a legal guest worker program. That is where Congress is failing. We believe and in the letter we submitted the losses by the end of the harvest season could go anywhere from $1 billion--and they are well beyond that now--to $5 billion or $6 billion at farm gate, meaning as it leaves the farm, which means to the consumer in the supermarkets of America, it will be a much higher price to pay.

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