Valley Ag leaders applaud comic approach to serious issue

FRESNO, Calif.

Colbert stayed in character on Friday as he testified on Capitol Hill about immigration.

Some ag industry leaders initially were concerned with Colbert's appearance. But once they stopped laughing, they were fine with Colbert's humorous approach to send a serious message.

The comedy show host let it be known early on this would not be a serious presentation. Colbert said, "I certainly hope my star power can pump this hearing all the way up to CSPAN 1."

Colbert also talked of his one-day gig as a farm worker. "After working with these men and women picking beans and packing corn for hours on end side by side in the unforgiving sun I have to say and I do mean this sincerely please don't make me do this again, it is really really hard."

Barry Bedwell of the California Grape and Tree fruit League says the election season has halted talk of immigration reform so Colbert's words were welcome. Bedwell explained, "I certainly had mixed emotions on the whole issue of bringing in quote, an entertainer into the issue but the reality is we need the attention. It is a humorous way to bring attention to a serious issue."

Colbert was joined by UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, who said 86-hundred people responded to the group's "Take Our Jobs" website. Rodriguez said, "But only seven people have accepted those jobs on a full-time basis and continuing to work."

Bedwell added, "Even with these high unemployment numbers, most Americans, clearly, this is work that they're not prepared nor want to do."

Colbert pleaded with lawmakers to do something about the farm labor issue because he said "I am not going back out there."

During his testimony he added, "America's farms are too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables. The obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables and if you look at the recent obesity numbers you will see many Americans have already started."

Colbert's comments drew laughter and heavy media coverage but some in the ag industry worry people may miss the point of the hearing.

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