Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:16 AM
Dan Wheat/Capital Press
Dale Foreman, lifelong Republican and past chairman of U.S. Apple Association, is backing Democratic incumbent on ag labor issue.
By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- Lifelong Republican Dale Foreman is doing something he never thought he would do -- supporting a Democrat.
Foreman, 64, attorney and owner of Foreman Fruit Co., Wenatchee, is backing Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., in her bid for a third term.
He's doing it, he said, because of Cantwell's support for the apple industry and her commitment to working for a bipartisan solution to the farm labor shortage that threatens the nation's tree fruit industry and other sectors of agriculture.
He's also doing it, he said, to send a message to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and many other Republicans -- that if they don't pass a farm labor bill they will lose support.
"Republicans, except from our neck of the woods, have been pretty negative toward ag labor reform," Foreman said. "Democrats have been more open. We need some compromise bill that will allow our crops to get picked."
Washington tree fruit is heavily dependent on migrant labor for picking crops. About 26,000 seasonal workers harvest cherries in June and 43,000 to 48,000 pick pears and apples in the fall. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 70 percent of them are illegal aliens. Fewer are coming making labor tight.
About $80 million of Washington's $2 billion apple crop was left unpicked last fall because of late fruit maturity and a 5 to 10 percent picker shortage, industry officials have estimated.
Thousands of Foreman's bins of apples were picked late last season because of the picker shortage and went for processing at 10 times less worth than fresh market.
Foreman announced his support of Cantwell at the U.S. Apple Association annual outlook conference in Chicago, Aug. 16-17, during his farewell remarks concluding his year as association chairman. He urged growers to back candidates willing to work hard on the issue, regardless of party.
The industry can't afford more harvests with inadequate labor, he subsequently told Capital Press.
Foreman was a Republican member of the Washington House of Representatives for four years and was majority leader from 1994 to 1996. He was a Republican candidate for governor in 1996 and 2000 and was state GOP chairman from 1996 to 2000. In that role, he served on the Republican National Committee.
He said backing Cantwell was not an easy decision because he's never voted for a Democrat, not even for minor office. He said he won't vote for any other Democrat this fall and will vote for Republican Mitt Romney for president.
As U.S. Apple Association chairman, Foreman has worked for ag labor reform. He met with the Washington congressional delegation, Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., and submitted written testimony in favor of H-2A guestworker reform to a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing last February.
Cantwell's Republican opponent this fall is state Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane. Baumgartner said he favors bipartisan solutions to ag labor and has been more bipartisan in the state Senate than Cantwell has been in the U.S. Senate. He said it's not unusual for people to back incumbents as a political calculation.
Foreman said he's not comparing Baumgartner and Cantwell, simply backing Cantwell for her commitment.
Foreman said he arranged a fundraiser for Cantwell, held July 20 at the East Wenatchee home of Mike Wade, general manager of Columbia Fruit Packers Inc., attended by about 80 people.
"There were a lot of apple growers there who had never been to a Democratic fundraiser in their lives. She spent a couple of hours with us. It was a very successful event," Foreman said.
He said he believes more than $10,000 was raised.
Posted By: Judgementle On: 8/24/2012
Title: Democrats control already
If the democrats wanted reform they would already have done it. They have the presidency and the senate. They don't want legal aliens they want illegal aliens. Their agenda is to cause social unrest to change things big time.