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● Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of Arizona to pass a law that would punish employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. Under that state’s law, a business license could be revoked, thus giving serious teeth to enforcement. This decision will further fuel the flames of debate over whether our country should move to a national and comprehensive solution to immigration problems or continue to leave these matters to a more fragmented and punitive approach by individual states. Given current political gridlock, odds are in favor of more headaches for labor-intensive agricultural employers.

● How growers might convey accurate chemical usage information to help better inform biological opinions issued as a result of the Endangered Species Act was the focus of a Minor Crop Farmer Alliance workshop that I attended in Denver on Tuesday and Wednesday. The BiOps are the work product of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior) and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service (Department of Commerce). These technical opinions go to the Environmental Protection Agency, when EPA decides to register or re-register a pesticide that might have an effect on sockeye salmon, or some other species, listed as endangered under the ESA.

About 75 people attended the workshop, which brought growers together with representatives of the two services and EPA for the first time. My quick evaluation: the workshop was excellent in terms of technical information; a good first step towards better cooperation; but the time horizon for a good solution to this complicated legal/technical/political problem still seems as far off as the Pacific Ocean was to the earliest settlers getting ready at Denver to cross the Rockies by way of wagon train.

● Congressman Doc Hastings (R/Washington) is joining with Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D/California) to revitalize the House of Representatives’ Specialty Crop Caucus. A strong group of members interested in fruits, vegetables, tree-nuts, nursery plants, etc., is essential as we go into a Congressional debate over the renewal of the Farm Bill during a time of less money.

When the next Farm Bill shrinks, it should be in a fair way as between specialty crop interests (for example, agricultural research and export marketing) and those of the more traditional Farm Bill sectors, such as dairy, wheat, corn, and cotton.