From Christmas tree farmers, to dairy owners to fruit and vegetable growers, farmers and ranchers from across the country are personally delivering a united message to Capitol Hill lawmakers this week:

As it is in the fields when crops are ready for harvesting, time is of the essence in passing immigration reform legislation.

This full-court press comes as the Senate takes up the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744).  The balanced immigration reform bill includes fair and workable farm labor provisions, according to Farm Bureau.  

“It’s been six years since we had the last real conversation on immigration reform, and it’s been more than two decades since Congress passed an immigration reform bill,” said Cody Lyon, American Farm Bureau Federation director of grassroots and policy advocacy. “This is really important for farmers and ranchers. We want to make sure this is done right, which means putting in place a system that really works for all of agriculture.”

What doesn’t work for most growers is the current H-2A guestworker program. Gene Richard, who works with Pennsylvania mushroom farmers, has no shortage of examples of how ineffective the current system, which provides only seasonal workers, is. 

A local grower “told me he is 30 people short and for two straight days he didn’t get his mushrooms harvested,” said Richard. “He figures he lost anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000 over those two days because his mushrooms went from the mushrooms you buy in a store (in the fresh produce section) to the mushrooms you buy in a can, bringing the price down from about 85 cents a pound to about 35-40 cents a pound.