While much of the greater agrifood industry has wanted the federal government to act on immigration reform to better meet its need for workers, it does not seem likely that such reform will come soon, a panel of lobbyists said.
Immigration reform was one of many legislative topics discussed during the 2020 Ag Media Summit session, “The Post-Election Farm Road: What a Century of D.C. Experience Tells Us,” held on November 17. The panel included three lobbyists, two of which are former congressional agriculture committee staff members.
Chandler Goule, a former staff director of the subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry for the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, said while it may appear that the projected president-elect Joe Biden is more receptive to immigration reform than current President Donald Trump is, he doesn’t expect anything of consequence to happen. That is because the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to be “a big stumbling block” because of the partisan divide, explained Goule, who is now the CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).
Tara Smith, a former senior professional staff member for the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, agreed. Smith, who is now an executive vice president for Michael Torrey Associates, said it is “hard to get excited about” the prospect of immigration reform once the newly elected officials take office.
In years past, bipartisan groups have got together to work on immigration reform, she said, and they have been close to getting something accomplished, but close doesn’t really count.
Mary Kay Thatcher, a government relations team member for Syngenta who previously worked as a lobbyist for American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said there is often excitement from the younger generation regarding change in government. That includes both young people who are lobbying for change, and younger people elected to office.
While that youthful enthusiasm can be a good thing, there are often unrealistic expectations of a politically divided Congress with a long history of struggles to reach a compromise.
“They don’t sense just how difficult it is,” she said.