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Ag labor bill takes another positive step

The agriculture labor bill moved one step closer to becoming law as the House Judiciary Committee passed it by a vote of 18-12 today.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was introduced in the House of Representatives at the end of October and has 26 Democrat and 23 Republican sponsors. The next step would be introduction and vote in the full House.

The bill has the support of many produce industry groups, who issued statements of support.

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a testament to the tenacity of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to bring much needed reform to the agriculture industry. The sustainability of American agriculture is at stake if our labor situation is not addressed,” said Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458.

“It is imperative that the House act quickly to pass this legislation. This bipartisan bill is cosponsored by nearly two dozen Republican members of Congress, demonstrating wide support. We believe a strong vote in the House will lead the way for the Senate to follow suit to finally address the labor crisis in American agriculture.”

“This meaningful agriculture labor reform will greatly benefit the U.S. apple industry, which is why we joined more than 300 agricultural organizations in support of the bill,” said Jim Bair, President and CEO of the U.S. Apple Association.

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act will stabilize the current agricultural workforce by creating a process for them to gain work authorization to continue working in agriculture. The bill also brings needed modernization and cost containment to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program.

“Time is of the essence and our growers cannot wait another harvest season for relief.  We urge Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to schedule a vote by the full House of Representatives this calendar year.”

Observers have said November is a critical month for the bill’s success, but bigger political issues, such as impeachment proceedings for President Trump and the 2020 presidential election, could stall the ag labor bill’s progress.

Greg Johnson is the Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services.