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Farm Labor Bill Leaves Room for Progress

Podcasts / Newsline November 5, 2019

Credit: USDA/ CC BY 2.0 

The American Farm Bureau Federation says recent legislation to address farm labor challenges could do more for farmers and ranchers. Micheal Clements has more.

Clements: Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives seeks to improve farm labor regulations, but the American Farm Bureau Federation says there’s room for more progress. Allison Crittenden, AFBF Congressional Relations Director, says the Farm Workforce Modernization Act makes several changes to farm labor provisions.

Crittenden: Title one of the bill focuses on providing an adjustment of status for farm workers who are currently undocumented or improperly documented. Title two of the bill has changes to the H-2A program application process, as well as grants access to year-round agriculture, and makes some tweaks to the AWER methodology and how those wages rates are reported out. Title three of the bill mandates E-Verify for all of agriculture.

Clements: However, Crittenden says farmers and ranchers need more to ensure their future labor needs are met.

Crittenden: The bill does far too little to help them compete with foreign imports by perpetuating the burdensome costs structure in the H-2A program. It also has limits on visas for year-round agriculture, which could be crippling when combined with the E-Verify provision. We’re looking to remedy these shortcomings to make sure that we have a guest worker program in place that meets the needs of agriculture today, but also in years to come.

Clements: Crittenden says farmers and ranchers need to be a part of the farm labor conversation in Washington.

Crittenden: It’s important for farmers to continue that conversation with their lawmakers here in Washington and ask them to make substantive changes to this legislation that will help farmers remain cost competitive.

Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.

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Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 // Ken Teegardin 

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