WASHINGTON, D.C. – As attendees lobbied their lawmakers at the Washington Public Policy Conference Oct. 4, immigration reform was the top priority of many.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., chairman of the house administration committee, spoke to attendees at the lunch general session, hosted by the United Fresh Produce Association, and said any proposal that addresses worker identification must also include a guest worker program.

He said the current proposal in the House with E-Verify doesn’t adequately address a guest worker program, critical to harvesting many fresh produce crops, and the H-2A guest worker program isn’t adequate for the industry’s needs.

Will Steele, president of Frontera Produce, Edinburg, Texas, said making sure any E-Verify bill includes a guest worker program is the No.1 message he wants to share with his representatives in Washington.

“It affects everyone in the supply chain,” he said.

An Oct. 4 breakout session discussed immigration reform and even became contentious, showing the fresh produce industry has a lot at stake with the issue.