Addressing fears, Ag Secretary says ICE not targeting farm workers

SOUTH VALLEY, Calif. (KFSN) -- On his second day in the valley, Georgia native and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue called California a cornucopia of agricultural production.

At a meeting with a South Valley almond grower, he learned about soil science and efficient water use methods.

"It informs me of how we can think not just theoretically in Washington, D.C. about policies that affect Dino (Giacomazzi) and growers like him in various parts of the country," Perdue said. "But getting on the ground, hearing from them, learning from them, what's working, what are the policies that make a difference, and what are the ones that they'd like to change."

At a dairy farm in Hanford, Perdue signed a memorandum of understanding with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy related to environmental sustainability.

He says he understands the challenges modern dairy operations face, including keeping cows safe and healthy.

When asked about immigrant labor, Perdue says it's one of the most challenging issues in American agriculture.

Perdue says undocumented workers deserve the chance to be part of a legal workforce, where they won't have to look over their shoulder.

"ICE are not after the people out here working on our farms," Perdue said. "I know there's an anxiety there. The President made it very clear. He wants the criminal element of illegal elements of illegal aliens out of this country and that's what ICE is doing."

"We have to have a process that these people can be gainfully employed and we'd love to see a pathway to citizenship, I personally would love that," said Milk Producers Council General Manager Kevin Abernathy. "We are also are very supportive of the DACA process."

The Nisei Farmers League is keeping a close eye on federal immigration enforcement.

They say there have been multiple ICE audits on valley agricultural operations so far this year.
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