Opinion: Advocating for Farmers on LI

Farm in North Fork, Long Island (Photo by Long Island Business News, Creative Commons license)

At a Sept. 17 immigration roundtable in Riverhead attended by government officials, community leaders and law enforcement – and closed to the public and immigrant advocates – amid discussions on gang activity and drug and human trafficking, participants also touched on the farming industry and the immigrants who make up its labor force.

A Riverhead News-Review editorial in support of the workers writes that immigration reform “must keep our farmers in mind.”

Perhaps no industry on the North Fork relies more on immigrant labor than agriculture.

Anyone familiar with the North Fork’s largest farms knows full well that Spanish-speaking immigrants are the heart of their labor force, keeping the bigger farm stands fully stocked. Thus, any changes to the immigration system — which badly needs changing — must take the farming community’s needs into account.

In his remarks, Karl Novak, president of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said he’s worked with all nationalities during his 40-year farming career and made this very important point: “They’re hardworking, honest people pursuing the American dream, and many of them have achieved it.”

The bureaucracy and red tape of the current visa system make the hiring process cumbersome and time-consuming. LIFB administrative assistant Rob Carpenter called for reform that can be “adaptable to the needs of our different communities without putting additional burdens on our operations with more regulation, time and effort or stipulations that could hurt our business profitability.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who attended the roundtable, has co-sponsored a bill aimed at agricultural workers that the editorial calls a “game-changer.” Go to Riverhead News-Review for more on the bill and other matters discussed at the meeting.

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