Labor seems to be the biggest issue looming over the watermelon industry. Bob Morrissey, executive director of the National Watermelon Association, hopes that President Trump will continue to uphold his campaign promises on immigration.
President Trump has been clear about his stance on immigration throughout his campaign and during his first several months in office. So far, he has focused much of his attention on reforming immigration policy. Morrissey says what is needed is to figure out a way to take Trump’s immigration stance and use that to the industry’s advantage to push its labor agenda on Capitol Hill. “We have to figure out a way to get a legal and viable workforce,” he said.
Morrissey emphasized that labor is the biggest expense the watermelon industry has, and it needs help from the federal government to tackle labor issues. “We have to get help from our federal government, not have them be a nuisance looking to fine people for doing their jobs,” Morrissey said. He added that the National Watermelon Association always advises its members to ensure I-9s are in order, as well as any other paperwork, just in case they are audited by the Department of Labor for any reason.
Although labor is the biggest issue for the association right now, it is also keeping a close eye on trade since watermelon growers face a lot of foreign competition, which is the case for many other crops as well. Morrissey said the association will continue to closely look at the North American Free Trade Agreement potential renegotiations. “We have to wait and see what that means. I don’t think anybody can predict what that will do,” he concluded.
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