Supporters of farm labor reform again called on the Senate to pass the House Farm Labor Modernization Act during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15. Members of the industry have joined one of the main sponsors, Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. , to induce passage due to the growing food crisis and rising food prices.
The Agricultural Workforce Modernization Act, which passed the House for the second time in March 2021, creates a labor solution for the U.S. agricultural industry. However, action in the Senate was stalled pending a Sens bill. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Newhouse notes that by creating a safe and reliable farm labor program, this legislation eliminates opportunities to work illegally in the United States, strengthens border security, reduces food costs for Americans, and ensures a stable workforce. and legal for farms and ranches for years to come.
Newhouse was joined by American Business Immigration Coalition Action (ABIC Action), National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), AmericanHort, International Fresh Produce Association, US Apple Association, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) , US Custom Harvesters, Inc. and Tyson Foods.
American Business Immigration Coalition Action executive director Rebecca Shi said this week’s Consumer Price Index report shows Americans are facing the highest food price inflation since 1979 with a groceries up 13.5%, chicken prices up 6.6% and eggs up nearly 40%.
“We are in crisis and if we want Americans to be able to eat healthy, affordable food and for our nation to be able to feed itself and not be forced to rely on imports, we need Senators Crapo and Bennet to table their Senate bill, building on the work the House has already done by twice passing the Farm Labor Modernization Act,” Shi says.
“The cost of doing nothing is just too high – it’s time to introduce this bill,” Shi continues.
Shi announced that ABIC Action is committing $8 million to push the bill forward this year. Part of their efforts will include hosting local events across the country with agricultural producers and showcasing those affected by the lack of action as well as supporting members of Congress who support farm labor reform.
National Council of Agricultural Co-operatives President and CEO Chuck Conner says over the past decade he has led a broad coalition of farm groups to find a solution to the labor crisis agriculture and do it in a united effort.
“We are entering an election cycle and soon into a debate on the farm bill. We don’t think you can claim a pro-farmer platform in this country if you’re not willing to stick your head out and try to do something to solve this labor crisis,” he said. said Conner. “While this may be a politically difficult question, the solution is actually quite simple and straightforward. We need the political will in the Senate and Congress to fix this problem that has been around for a very long time.
Conner continued, “If we don’t tackle the farm labor crisis now, our efforts next year to craft a strong Farm Bill will ring hollow for many producers, as they will lack the workers they need. need to plant or harvest crops or care for their animals.
The National Dairy Federation’s senior director of government relations, Claudia Larson, says dairy farms across the country have gone out of business because the labor crisis is preventing them from making the decisions and investments needed to continue operating. “In many cases, it’s no longer the uncertainty of labor that affects farmers‘ business decisions – it’s the new, unfortunate reality that there simply isn’t enough of workers,” says Larson. “The dairy sector needs reform that both protects our current workers and their families and grants our farmers meaningful access to a viable guest worker program.”
According to Craig Regelbrugge, executive vice president of AmericanHort, growers in the horticulture sector report that one in five positions are vacant.
“Time flies, but there is still time for the Senate to act on farm labor reform that can bring immediate relief to agricultural producers and consumers,” Regelbrugge said. “America’s food security is closely tied to our national security. Reforms to our failing visa and immigration system will help curb food price inflation and strengthen local economies.
Newhouse pleaded with his Senate counterparts to take action. “It’s time to move the Agricultural Workforce Modernization Act forward. It’s on you now. Because with your help, we can finally secure our borders, reduce food costs and provide a sustainable solution for our farmers and ranchers.