Valley farmers, politicians talk immigration, tariffs with U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue

LOS BANOS, Calif. (KFSN) -- US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was joined by four congressmen in a town hall meeting to hear from Central Valley farmers.

The number one question was about immigration. All of the farmers complained the immigration crackdown is keeping them from finding enough workers.

Perdue said the President doesn't want to deport farm workers who aren't breaking the law.

"If they are not doing things illegally they shouldn't have concerns," Perdue said.

But, grower Joel Del Bosque says farm workers are concerned.

"They are afraid, they hear the news just like we do," he said. "They don't know what to think. They hope they are just out to get the criminals and the lawbreakers, and just let them work."

But, just entering the country illegally, or being undocumented, as 70 percent of the Valley's farmworkers are, is against the law. An issue Perdue didn't appear to want to confront.

"These people are hard working, providing for our great economy of the United States," he said.

REPORTER: But they are still being rounded up.

"Next question," he said.

Trade with China was also an issue discussed. Congressman Josh Harder (D-Modesto) said the agriculture industry is hurting because of the tariffs imposed by China as a result of President Trump's trade war.

"We've seen the prices on the global market collapse because of that," he said. "We've seen hundreds of millions of dollars of losses in the Valley because of that."

Perdue acknowledged farmers are a casualty of the trade war.

"The President knew when he called the file on China because of the productivity of American farmers, that they would be harmed," he said. "And yes, they've been harmed. Where you have a customer like China that hasn't been playing by the rules and you call them out on it, you can call it a casualty or a trade disruption or whatever."

Both congressman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Harder agree a better course in dealing with China would be working with allies.

"This go it alone, shoot from the hip approach clearly hasn't gotten any results," Harder said.

During his visit, Secretary Purdue was also given several hundred letters signed by Valley growers asking for federal support in getting dams built or expanded to provide more water for agriculture.
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