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Agriculture Commissioner: “Best news would be if nothing happens on immigration”

The Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, told state citrus industry leaders that Florida GOP elected officials should be credited for not passing the “mistaken” state immigration laws now in place in Georgia and Alabama. He spoke at the 78 th annual meeting of Citrus World Inc., saying “There’s just no good news here…The best news would be if nothing happens. Thank God for Georgia and Alabama because they’ve given us examples of real-world consequences of these mistaken policies,” he said. “Because of the work done last year, I think this issue is taking a back seat in the Legislature, and I did not anticipate it taking such a large role next year.”

As we all now by now, Alabama and Georgia have both approved immigration enforcement laws that require police officers to verify the immigration status of anyone they stop, detain or arrest, and prohibits the enforcement of any contract with an unauthorized immigrant. Alabama’s law also requires that K-12 schools check the immigration status of their students. We are also well aware of Gov. Rick Scott’s unwavering intention of passing the immigration law package in the next session. And even though it seems unlikely that it would pass in the House of Representatives as it was shot down last session, state Senate President Mike Haridopolis said his chamber would once again pass the same immigration bill it passed in the 2011 session, meaning the only line of protection existing may just be that of the House of Representatives’.

Citrus World Inc. is a cooperative that represents 13 Florida citrus growers associations. The entire cooperative is made up of more than 1,000 grower-members who own more than 50,000 acres of fine citrus groves in the heart of central Florida. According to Open Secrets, from 2000 through 2008, the crop production and basic processing industry (which includes fruit growers) gave Putnam more than $428,000 in congressional campaign contributions. It is also worth noting that Putnam was also the lead recipient of campaign contributions in the 2002, 2004, and 2008 election cycles from the vegetable and fruit industry, which have him a total of about $225,000, these contributions combined with sound economic reasoning on behalf of the commissioner may together explain why he is adamant in his pursuits that discourage the passage of Florida law that disfavors the agriculture industry. Far from being considered a mark of entrenched interests, the commissioner’s profound knowledge of the industry and the economic impact it has in Florida serves to add validity to what he says, for bad immigration legislation would be much worse than having no legislation at all. Although in the best case scenario we would prefer a comprehensive immigration reform package that amplifies the issuance of visas, especially those that are temporary for seasonal workers, in light of the other alternative, it is preferable if the immigration laws stay the same and that the Florida legislation is stopped from passing any negative immigration laws since otherwise we may also fall prey to the adverse consequences currently being felt in Georgia and Alabama.

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