U.S. Secretary of Ag speaks to growers at World Ag Expo opening day

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As cars lined up to enter the first day of the annual World Ag Expo, a few people stood to the side. (KFSN)

As cars lined up to enter the first day of the annual World Ag Expo, a few people stood to the side. Susanne Gundy said she came to the expo to promote awareness on the importance of immigrants to the Valley.

"People here locally know that our immigrants, immigrant farmworkers, are vital to agriculture," said Gundy, a member of Tulare Democrats. "It doesn't work without it, and to target them for deportation or harassment is just counterproductive."

As the U.S. Senate debates immigration reform this week, Gundy said she supports a clean Dream Act.

President Trump's proposal offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million dreamers but would include $25 billion for border security, including a wall.

So far, Congressman David Valadao likes what he sees in the plan.

"I think he's asking for some pretty reasonable stuff there," Valadao said. "We just need to make sure we come to a conclusion so that kids who came here to no fault of their own have an opportunity. And then once we're done with that, move on to the next topics of guest worker programs and things like that."

At a town hall event Tuesday morning, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told an audience that he would like to see a legal agricultural workforce as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

"It requires fixing a broken immigration system to have a legal workforce," said Valley Congressman Jim Costa.

Costa believes Perdue has taken a bipartisan approach in his role, and has been responsive to issues that affect California growers.

The secretary says water is part of Trump's new infrastructure plan.

"I'm hopeful with new rules and permitting, that we can capture more of the surface water here, snow runoff there, rather than letting it flow out into the ocean," Perdue said. "(We want to) capture it for human use and agricultural use."

Perdue also pointed out that the challenge of getting more water to valley growers should be addressed at every level federal, state, and local.

Secretary Perdue will also be making stops at Valley packing houses, orchards, and dairies tomorrow. Congressmen Costa, Denham, and Valadao were at Tuesday's town hall.

Congressman Nunes did not attend.
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