“Given the impact of a slowing economy, the availability of workers for agriculture has actually grown over the short term as workers from construction have been idled,” says Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League (CGTFL) in Fresno, Calif.

And then there’s cold, hard reality.

“With the “No Match” and e-verify rules moving forward, either through the courts or being pushed by the current administration, the need for comprehensive immigration reform has not diminished,” Bedwell says. “Without reform including elements such as AgJOBS, agriculture will find itself in dire straights regardless of the current short-term supply. While President-elect Obama has been supportive of comprehensive immigration reform and in particular — AgJOBs — other issues clearly have a higher priority within his new administration. We, along with many others, involved in agricultural coalitions, will be pushing to move immigration reform up the agenda.”

One of the biggest concerns, according to Bedwell, is the increased probability of passage of the “Employee Free Choice Act”. The proposed legislation would eliminate secret ballot elections of employees deciding whether or not to seek union representation. The legislation, authored and supported by unions, would allow for certification of unions simply by organizers obtaining a majority of worker signatures on an authorizing card, according to Bedwell.

“This system, known as “card check”, has been beaten back twice in California for agricultural workers because Gov. Schwarzenegger has recognized the importance of maintaining a secret ballot as a cornerstone of our democracy,” he says. “President-elect Obama, as a prime beneficiary of union political support, has stated that he would sign the legislation if it reaches his desk. Therefore, pressure now increases in the Senate for business and agriculture to stop this legislation where Democrats have an even larger majority, but still short of the 60 needed to prevent filibusters.”