(May 22) At a time when the U.S. and its produce industry are looking for answers from their political leaders, little action on immigration reform and border security appears imminent.

The produce industry, heavily reliant on migrant laborers from Mexico, would welcome a comprehensive and feasible guest worker program. President Bush, in a speech to the nation May 15, once again voiced support for that concept because many businesses rely on migrant workers to fill “jobs Americans aren’t doing.”

Days later, the president went to Yuma, Ariz., one of several communities along the U.S. border with Mexico to which illegal aliens stream in hopes of finding higher-paying jobs than they can find at home.

Produce companies — growers and shippers, in particular — are among the first to welcome the laborers.

But Bush’s trip to Arizona amounted to little more than symbolism.

As in his May 15 speech, he covered no new ground. He’s been to the border before. He’s offered the same platitudes ad nauseam.

In his May 15 speech, the president straddled a middle ground — dangerous territory, indeed, for such a polarized issue. Polls show U.S. citizens want the border with Mexico secured before any other immigration-related issues are settled. Bush has consistently sought a comprehensive solution that involves border security and a guest worker provision.

Bush toured the border near Yuma May 18 as a way of punctuating his speech. But he left little, if any, room on his agenda to address the specific concerns of the produce industry. Yuma was an appropriate place to visit. That desert city depends heavily on agriculture, and that industry needs a reliable labor force.

But the country and the produce industry need more than symbolism. They need leadership.

Neither the president nor Congress appears willing to commit to a solution before the elections. The Senate has debated several plans and was to vote by May 23 on whether to build a 400-mile fence along the 2,000-mile border.

None of the reform plans seems to have much traction.

It appears the status quo may be Plan A, as the mid-term elections approach in November.

What that means, for fruit and vegetable growers, at least, is that labor should continue to be available.

However, the lack of a reasonable guest worker policy will continue to haunt the nation —and this industry — for some time to come.