While President Trump has received some criticism from the farm community for his harsh words on immigration, Ray Starling, special assistant to the president on agriculture, says the president understands agriculture’s need for access to a reliable labor force and will make it a priority to help fix the issue.
“This is an area that we're working in and particularly for our Aggies,” Starling says. “This is a challenge for us and for the president, to stand up at a rally and say ‘Look we want agriculture to have access to their workers. We understand it is a limiting economic issue for them.’”
Last week at a campaign rally in Michigan, president Trump said he knows agriculture needs guest workers.
“For the farmers, OK, it’s going to get good, and we’re going to let your guest workers come in because we’re going to have strong borders, but we have to have your workers come in,” Trump said in Washington, Mich. “Guest workers. Don’t we agree? We have to have them. We have to have them.”
According to Starling, the Trump Administration intends to make progress on a guest worker program that would help relieve the pressure on farmers.
“Some of that progress will be left up to the Hill, and may be bound up in a bigger conversation about immigration reform,” he says. “But for ag what I've been gratified to see both here in the White House and across the administration, and frankly out in the public as well, is that folks understand we have a special need. They understand that particularly with some of these visa programs, we have workers that come in lawfully. They are law abiding. They are paid a fair wage and then at the end of their visa term they return to their home country.”
President Trump’s main concern is that foreign workers come to the U.S. lawfully.
“To the extent that we have to have a program and access labor from outside the United States, that's the way we want to do it,” he explains. “In an orderly, lawful fashion that gets the farmers what they need, protects the workers and maintains our national security.”