Prior to introducing the panelists, Farm Forum president Neil Conklin briefly addressed the issue of immigration reform. In a Farm Forum stakeholders meeting on immigration issues in July, he says, there was general consensus that current guest-worker programs are not working for either workers or employers. At that time though, participants saw little chance of comprehensive immigration reform in the near future. Conklin noted though, that immigration reform could become more likely following the 2012 election, as Republicans have openly acknowledged a need to reconnect with minority voters.
During the question and answer session, former U.S. Representative Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) served as moderator. In his opening comments, Stenholm, who served six years as ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, said the current ag committees in the House and Senate are a last preserve of bipartisanship in Congress. Unfortunately, that spirit of compromise disappears when legislation moves from the committees to the general assemblies. He encouraged the audience to contact their Congressional representatives and tell them to get busy, put the nation’s business ahead of party politics and resolve issues such as the budget and farm bill.
A webcast of the forum is available on the Farm Foundation website.