Ray Gilmer United Fresh

The upcoming race for US president is tight, and either president Obama or governor Romney could win a narrow victory in November. The choice is important: the president appoints a team of regulators for labour, food safety, trade and other areas that can impact the produce industry. To help our members make the best choice in the presidential election, United Fresh submitted questions to the Obama and Romney campaigns about the produce industry’s top issues.

Because of recent changes in state immigration laws in the US, as well as a Supreme Court decision that affirms the rights of states to establish their own immigration enforcement, agricultural employers are concerned about future workforce access. So, we asked both candidates about their thoughts on immigration reform.

Obama championed a “comprehensive reform that strengthens our economy and reflects our values as a nation of laws and of immigrants.

“I support legislation that would invest in border security, hold employers accountable, demand responsibility from undocumented immigrants while creating a path to legal status, and reform the legal immigration system to attract the best and brightest, and keep families together,” he said.

Meanwhile, Romney said that he would implement an immigration strategy to address the system, working with Congress to forge “lasting solutions”. He said that he understood and appreciated the critical role that foreign workers play in the fruit and vegetable industry, and criticised the current system for issuing visas to temporary seasonal workers.

We also queried the regulatory burden that many in the produce industry believe is a deterrent to business growth, by asking what the US Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be doing from a regulatory point of view.

“I believe strong and prosperous agricultural communities lead to a strong and prosperous America,” said Obama. “That’s why I have signed three historic trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, which will create tens of thousands of jobs by increasing exports. I am also expanding regional food markets and have bolstered farmers’ markets by 53 per cent since 2008. Under my leadership, agriculture has been one of the fastest-growing parts of our economy, creating one out of every 12 American jobs.”

Governor Romney pointed out that farmers are good stewards of the land, and felt that they were looking for certainty and predictability when it came to new and existing epa regulations.

“Too often, issues such as land and water use, air quality and resource access are dictated by staff-level actions and initiatives, or by ngos that sue the epa to force a settlement they deem appropriate for farmers,” Romney explained. “All of these activities occur with very little input from key stakeholders, or with full transparency in the decision-making process, which ultimately reduces global competitiveness.'