He said a comprehensive solution to immigration reform is desperately needed. “Currently, some 70 percent of the agricultural work force is undocumented.”

He said if we put a fence across our southern border we may prevent more illegal immigrants from coming in “but we also fence in 12 million who are already here. Do we round them all up and deport them?”

He said a better option is to begin a system to include identification papers—passports, counterfeit proof driver’s licenses or green cards—for immigrants “who are here to work. Then give them an opportunity to get in line for citizenship or to make arrangements to go home at some point.”

He said he’s never understood why everyone does not carry official identification papers.

He said a true North American Free Trade Agreement would create a powerful trading block. “Currently, Mexico would be the challenge. It is nearly lawless. But (with a true NAFTA) we would be energy self-sufficient and would provide enough jobs for everyone.”

Horse slaughter

Stenholm also touched on what he admitted is a controversial issue—horse slaughter for human consumption.

“We have 250,000 unwanted horses in the United States. If something is not done we will see a downsizing of the horse industry.”

Stenholm says prohibition against horse slaughter, and exporting to countries where horsemeat is not taboo, limits hose owners’ property rights.

He said water will become a bigger issue in the United States in coming years than energy.

He also commented on the bipartisan atmosphere in the U.S. congress. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” he said. “We have polarization on the far right and the far left and no chance of compromise. Most of the American people live in the sensible center.”

He said the answer is “common sense and education.”

That’s what he tries to provide in his new role.

rsmith@farmpress.com