November crucial to ag labor bill’s success

The produce industry ought to know fairly soon if the proposed agriculture labor bill will find success in Congress.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was introduced in the House of Representatives the last week of October and has 24 Democrat and 20 Republican sponsors. Many agriculture groups, including the United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458 support it.

United Fresh senior vice president of public policy Robert Guenther said Nov. 1 that this month is crucial to its passage.

“Our goal is for the House to consider it before the Thanksgiving recess,” he said.

The House is on recess the week of Nov. 4 but will be in session the two weeks before the holiday week.

Of course, the big national story is the impeachment proceedings in the House against President Trump, so this bill will have to fight through that.

Guenther said he’s put its odds of passing the House at 50-50, “but it’s moving in the right direction.”

The fact that it has bipartisan support makes him optimistic, he said. The Democratic leadership has supported the bill, so the gains will have to be made on the Republican side.

“There’s something in it for all members to support,” he said, noting that liberals can point to legal status for workers, and conservatives can point to the strict E-Verify provisions, for example.

Guenther said United Fresh will work with produce industry members this week in key House districts and encourage them to contact their representatives while they’re on recess and in their home district.

He said the association could also organize a fly-in for members in November.

If the bill passes the House of Representatives, the Senate has the option to either endorse the House version with some changes or take up its own bill.

Guenther said he expects the Senate to introduce its own bill, but he’s already heard bi-partisan discussions for it.

Then there’s Trump, who hasn’t given his opinion on the bill. He has talked tough on limiting immigration, but he also enjoys strong support from American agriculture, and nearly all in the community say this bill would help their labor problems.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services