Apr 28, 2011Rep. Huizenga hears from growers about ag labor
Congressman Bill Huizenga, representing the 2nd Congressional district in west Michigan, held two days of listening sessions with constituents on April 27-28. Huizenga kicked off the tour in Sparta, Mich., where he hosted about 20 members of the community.
Huizenga, who is about four months into his first term in Congress, held the listening sessions to find out what people in his district are concerned about and to inform them about what he’s learned so far in Washington.
The political debate in Washington, D.C. is building toward the 2012 election, which is earlier than Huizenga expected and somewhat discouraging, he said. It’s difficult to have bipartisan support for anything when each side is politicking.
“Right now you’re seeing ‘old Washington’ rearing its ugly head … and it’s very hard to have a rational discussion with that going on,” Huizenga said.
As expected, healthcare, taxes and gas prices were popular topics, but some of the most spirited conversations revolved around agricultural labor reform in the United States. Representatives from three west Michigan apple orchards said they were afraid that e-verify would be mandatory, and told Huizenga if that happened they would have no labor for the harvest.
Huizenga, who owns a concrete gravel company in Holland, Mich., said he understood the concerns about businesses getting labor, but any ag labor reform would have to come as part of a comprehensive reform. With the political discourse in Washington, D.C., focused on the budget and bigger issues, he said the chances that an e-verify bill or any time of labor reform passing in the near future was slim.