Vilsack’s comments came during the USDA’s 2013 Ag Outlook Conference last month.
The agriculture secretary made a call for immigration reform that, “Creates an opportunity for these folks to be here legitimately, so that they can provide the labor and the work that's necessary for our producers, so we in this country can continue to enjoy the extraordinary diversity of agriculture that we have and that we can continue to afford the luxury of having some of the least-expensive food in the world.”
Vilsack claimed that a percentage of the labor used in agriculture is in the country illegally and that crops will rot unpicked without their assistance.
“Agriculture relies to a great extent on immigrant labor, and everybody in this room understands and appreciates that a good deal of that labor isn't necessarily in this country legally. And that has been the case for a long time,” Vilsack said.
“This is a risk to agriculture, and we are beginning to see the implications of that risk because we've had crops that were grown last year that could not be harvested, because there simply weren't enough hands to pick them.”