Reed discusses workers reform with area farmers

Photo by Dennis Phillips Dick Kimball, left, New York Farm Bureau District 1 director and Chautauqua County Farm Bureau president, and U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, at Gustafson Farms located along Falconer-Frewsburg Road.

FREWSBURG — Several topics were on the docket when U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, met with local farmers recently.

Members of the New York Farm Bureau and Cornell Cooperative Extension met with Reed at Gustafson Farms to discuss issues facing local farmers. The first topic of discussion was immigration reform. Dick Kimball, New York Farm Bureau District 1 director and Chautauqua County Farm Bureau president, said it has been a problem for local farmers to secure a workforce.

“We can’t find people to milk cows,” Kimball said

Reed said he has heard from several farmers about labor issues when it comes to immigration reform. Unfortunately for local farmers, Reed said the immigration issue probably won’t be the focus of President Donald Trump’s administration until 2018. Reed said, right now, taxes and health care reform is the focus for 2017.

“I would love to do it sooner,” Reed said.

Reed said during his travels he has met several immigrants – both legal and illegal — working on area farms. He said they’re quality workers looking to improve their lives by working on farms in the United States. He also said, however, there is a problem with bad people trying to gain access to the country, via the same methods as the immigrant workers, that need to be kept from being able to enter the country.

“The border is going to be addressed,” Reed said. “The border is going to be secured.”

Reed also discussed the North American Free Trade Agreement with the farmers. Kimball said farmers want agricultural gains made through NAFTA to be preserved if the law is reformed by the Trump administration. He said Mexico is the No. 1 importer of U.S. produced milk.

Reed, who is a member of the Subcommittee on Trade as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said they’re not looking to scrap NAFTA, but to update the agreement to modernize what is already in place.

“With Mexico, we don’t want to interrupt the market you already have,” Reed said.

Norm Gustafson, owner of Gustafson Farms, asked Reed how lawmakers can make it easier for farmers to pass on what they have done for a living to the next generation. He said the average age of the U.S. farmer is 56. He added that he would like to see laws changed to make it easier for his son, David, who is a fourth-generation farmer, to carry on the family business.

Reed said one way lawmakers can help is by improving estate tax regulations so farmers will be in better position to transfer the family business to their children.

“We want to make sure we are getting the policies right,” Reed said.