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Not all of agriculture supports labor bill

United Fresh members were among the 250 agriculture and labor groups who endorsed the ag labor bill that was introduced last week in the House of Representatives, but at least one large ag group isn’t on board.

Will Rodger, directory of policy and communications for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the group doesn’t support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

He said the limits on visas for agriculture and requirements to use E-Verify will result in too few workers for the sector.

“We want the bill to correspond to reality, and there’s no way H2-A numbers will work,” he said November 5.

So rather than endorse this bill and try to work it more in their members favor, Rodger said the farm bureau would rather get it closer to what members want now.

The bill has more than 20 co-sponsors from each of Democrats and Republicans as it sits in the House Judiciary Committee, waiting to be brought to the floor for a vote. The House is on recess this week but will be working the two weeks before Thanksgiving week, Nov. 25-29.

The California Farm Bureau Federation supports the bill.
“This comprehensive legislation contains key elements that address current and future workforce needs for agricultural employers and employees in California and throughout the nation,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said.
“The reforms in the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 will provide much-needed solutions for agricultural employers and employees.”

United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458 senior vice president of public policy Robert Guenther said the bill has bipartisan support, but it has only the support of the Democratic leadership and not as much in the Republican side.

He said November 5 that while worker availability is a concern, United members believe the bill provides enough provisions.

“First and foremost, the Title I provisions not only provide legal status to workers who are currently undocumented, and it requires them to keep working in agriculture for a period of time which actually increases depending on the number of years they have been working in agriculture,” he said.

Secondly, Guenther said, “the revised H-2A program for seasonal workers remains uncapped, and because it is streamlined and allows for staggered entry, past issues with getting enough workers in during various growing seasons will be mitigated.”

He also said the visa program has a rolling cap and emergency provisions.

“These mechanisms will help ensure that agriculture will have access to the labor it needs,” Guenther said.

Rodger said the Farm Bureau will work with anyone in Congress who wants the provisions its members want.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services