Agriculture labor requirements and the threat of higher food prices and rising imports took center stage when USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack pushed immigration reform during a recent press conference.

Vilsack argued against smaller, incremental reform as inadequate, saying a “comprehensive” approach is needed.

“We need to stop threatening the competitiveness of our agricultural economy with this broken immigration policy. I’ve met farmers and ranchers all over this country who are worried about the broken immigration system. They’re unable to find the necessary number of farm workers and sometimes they struggle to verify their work authorization papers. All the while, they wonder if they’ll have enough help for the next harvest,” he said.

Obviously wary of the rancor and divisiveness previous immigration reform efforts exposed across the country, Vilsack also repeatedly called for a “civil” debate.

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