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Post-election: Sen. McCain discusses immigration reform, drought

U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona says comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to meet the country’s labor needs for agriculture - but only after the U.S.-Mexico border is 90 percent sealed. Drought in Arizona could deal a severe water shortage to central Arizona agriculture in the next several years.

Shortly after the American people made their voices heard at the ballot box in the Nov. 4 General Election, a poised and smiling U.S. Senator John McCain, Rep.-Ariz., discussed immigration reform, drought, wildfires, and forest thinning with a group of Grand Canyon state farmers and ranchers.

The senator’s remarks came after the Republican Party gained control of the U.S. Senate; a party now behind the steering wheel of Congress.

Speaking at the 2014 Arizona Farm Bureau annual meeting in Scottsdale, Sen. McCain said comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to meet the country’s labor needs for agriculture.

“Immigration reform has to happen,” Sen. McCain said. “There are 11 million here (U.S.) illegally and we need to deal with it.”

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Before that happens, McCain says securing the U.S.-Mexico border must come first.

McCain said, “We need 90 percent effective control of the border to gain immigration reform.”

McCain shared that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner wants to bring immigration reform legislation to Congress for consideration. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama plans to push forward on reform through an executive order before Congress can pass legislation.

The senator chimed in that the president should allow Congress to act first.

“It’s an outrage,” McCain said, referring to the president’s suggestion.

“Is the President’s interest in immigration reform or winning the 2016 Hispanic vote (in the 2016 Presidential election)?” McCain asked.

Any immigration reform plan brought to the forefront, the senator says, must address the employment needs in agriculture.

House first

The former U.S. republican presidential nominee says immigration reform legislation should be introduced in the U.S. House first, versus legislative introduction a handful of years ago in the Senate.

Also on McCain’s talking list to Farm Bureau members was drought and wildfires; where he noted that Arizonans face the 14th consecutive year of drought. By 2060, he said estimates project a 3.5 million acre foot water deficit on the Colorado River for water supplies, including irrigation.

If and when the water level at Arizona’s Lake Mead drops to a depth below 1,075 feet (likely in 2015 or 2016), the Secretary of the Interior could issue an emergency declaration for the Colorado River.

If this occurs, Arizona would be the first state among the seven Colorado River basin states, including California, to face a mandatory water reduction for central Arizona agriculture.

Previous estimates suggest that farmers and ranchers in this region could face disastrous surface water reductions in the 30-50 percent range, along with much higher water costs. Cotton is among the major crops grown in the area.

McCain also discussed forests and the need for forest thinning. He said 20 percent of the national forests have succumbed to wildfires in the last 10 years.

The senator referenced a Northern Arizona University study which suggests that forest thinning on 250,000 acres (in Arizona) could increase the available water supply by about 100,000 acre feet.

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