Immigration and agriculture go hand in hand.
That's what community and business leaders in Tallahassee recently heard from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
He said immigration reform is vital to the health of the state’s agriculture industry.
Putnam told the Economic Club of Florida he is concerned the U.S. is losing business to developing countries that have different standards for hiring farm workers.
“We need a smart immigration policy that secures for this country a stable, legal workforce across the spectrum of workforce needs where our economy has gaps,” Putnam said. “We had gaps at a 4 percent unemployment rate and we have gaps at an 8 percent unemployment rate.”
Putnam said the country needs to support a system that employs workers from around the world.
The answer, he said, could be as simple as a temporary, guest worker program.
“The simple fact is if we want to be a free nation that can feed itself and not be as dependent on others for food as we are for fuel,” Putnam said, “we have to have that stable, legal workforce.”
Putnam said that’s especially important for Florida, because two-thirds of the state’s acreage is used for agriculture.