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IFPA joins call for Senate action on farm labor shortage and rising food costs

IFPA’s Cathy Burns Joins Call to Demand Senate Action on Farm Labor Shortage to Address Rising Food Costs

July 12, 2022 WASHINGTON – Today national and state agricultural leaders joined Republican Members of Congress – including U.S. Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Jim Baird (R-IN), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Mike Simpson (R-ID) – to call on Congress to pass bipartisan workforce solutions to address the farm labor shortage in order to combat inflation.

Press conference speakers rallied support for Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) as they continue their bipartisan efforts to introduce Senate legislation that builds on the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) which passed both in 2019 and 2021, with strong bipartisan support.

“Consumers are seeing high costs of milk, produce, fruits, meat, and eggs in the supermarket because the Senate has not acted,” said ABIC Action Executive Director and event emcee Rebecca Shi. “We need the Senate to act now to provide food security and lower costs for the American people.”

Republican members of the House of Representatives called on the Senate to pass a bill this session. “This is a vitally important issue for America. We passed it twice in the house. We want the senate to act on it and we want them to do it this year… I am living proof that you can actually talk about immigration and go out and win an election,” said Rep. Simpson.

Others called out reasons that a farm labor bill is so crucial.

“I am here for one reason today and that’s to encourage, to plead, with our senate colleagues to come together so that we can finally fix our broken immigration system and combat the rising cost of food in our country that every single American is facing,” said Rep. Newhouse. “By ensuring that we have a legal and reliable workforce we can secure [our] food supply, food security, and reduce food costs for all Americans. We can raise wages and reduce unemployment for all American workers by creating value-added upstream jobs…What are we waiting for?”

“Across the country our farmers are struggling to navigate soaring costs, supply chain issues and ongoing labor shortage that has tested limits of foundational industry. Law and regulations around this have not been examined for decades now, and, as a result, American farmers and ranchers are under-equipped to meet demands,” said Rep. Baird. “ I hear all too often about challenges that current policy created for industry already under immense strain. That’s why I support FWMA and will continue to support other common sense legislation that will give farmers the help they need.”

Rep. LaMalfa elaborated on the bipartisan efforts afoot to pass a bill this year. “This is a very delicately balanced piece of legislation, the FWMA. Both sides are at the table giving and taking. It’s not about sides so much on this thing, because it’s helping resolve a long term issue in agriculture and its a stable workforce…You have perishable crops and farmers can’t get them to the stores. …This is about getting food to people that is grown in this country with high standards,” he said.

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives Chuck Connor put the bill in historical context and pointed out its vital role in securing the nation’s food supply. “For more than a decade, a wide range of agriculture groups have come together to push for a solution to the agriculture labor crisis in a united effort… Yet, it’s the events of the past few years – from the COVID to the war in Ukraine – that have highlighted, for me, a fact that often gets overlooked in this debate—our national security is tied to our ability to feed ourselves, and that ability is currently under extreme threat because of the agriculture labor crisis.”

At the press conference, Texas A&M University Associate Professor Sean Maddan released data from a new economic study on the link between stabilizing the agricultural workforce and decreasing inflation and consumer prices. The study (read findings here) shows that ensuring farmers have a stable, secure, reliable, and legal workforce is crucial to keeping America’s grocery shelves stocked, combating inflation, and lowering food prices (including milk, eggs, meat, and produce) for all domestic consumers.

“Overall, the findings in this study tended to support the conclusion that policies on non-citizen admissions and immigration have a profound association with the economy,” said Prof. Maddan. “The relationships denoted above are strong, statistically significant relationships, and definitely warrant further research and consideration.”

The Texas A&M study’s topline findings include:
• More migrant and more H-2A workers are related with lower inflation.
• More migrant and more H-2A workers are associated with higher average wages and minimum wages.
• More migrant and more H-2A workers are associated with lower unemployment.
• More denied petitions for naturalization are associated with larger consumer prices and higher inflation.
• More petitions for naturalization are associated with lower inflation.

The data for this research were collected from official sources that include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, US Customs and Border Protection, and the US Department of Agriculture. Information was collected from 1960-2020 for most data points, associated with meats, poultry, milk and eggs.

Link to the study:

Additional statements:

Enrique Sanchez, ABIC Intermountain Region Director, DACA recipient and son of a farm worker: “I am here as a representative for ABIC Action and as a DACA recipient and child of former farm workers. Due to his status, my father was unable to join my mother during my birth in Mexico. The agricultural sector is facing devastating labor shortages. If this is not addressed, Americans will continue to see empty grocery shelves and higher prices. American farmers need access to a safe, legal and reliable workforce through new Senate legislation being negotiated by Senators Crapo and Bennet.”

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher: “It is paramount that we have an agricultural guestworker system that addresses both long- and short-term farm labor needs in this country. We look forward to a Senate bill that would modernize the federal H-2A program to have a continuous, legal workforce for all sectors of agriculture. This includes opening the system to year-round employees that are needed on farms that milk cows and care for livestock. We must all come together to fix a longtime problem that will support our farms and the American people. Food security is national security.”

Utah Farm Bureau Federation President Ron Gibson: “Reform to our immigration and guest worker program is long overdue. Farmers and their employees need a system that provides long-term stability. The current legislation has several critical shortcomings that need to be addressed, including ensuring that the costs to use the guestworker program do not impede a farm’s ability to remain viable. In the Senate, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Mike Bennet (D-CO) have taken the lead on negotiating much-needed improvements on the House’s solutions and moving the process forward. Passing new Senate legislation is critical to solving labor shortages facing Utah’s agriculture sector and sustaining the state’s economy as a whole.”

AmericanHort Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs Sara Neagu-Reed: “Congress is within reach of attaining long-sought agricultural workforce reforms, this year! We stand here today, encouraging Senators Crapo and Bennett to finish their work building on the bipartisan foundations laid by the House, put forward ideas and solutions, and for the Senate to pass legislation to finally address the agricultural workforce challenges.”

National Council of Agricultural Employers President & CEO Michael Marsh: “A nation unable to feed itself has impaired its national security. A bipartisan coalition of leaders in the House of Representatives successfully negotiated and passed ag labor reform. We now need the Senate to act. We applaud U.S. Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Mike Crapo of Idaho for their bipartisan leadership in that Chamber and look forward to helping them advance their version of this critical legislation in the U.S. Senate.”

International Fresh Produce Association BB #:153708 CEO Cathy Burns: “Without immigration reform, we know that American consumers will continue to experience higher prices and fewer options at the grocery store, threatening food security and availability. Any threat to the availability of fresh produce undermines the health benefits of fruits and vegetables in combating the chronic diseases that cost our economy billions.”

Additional Background:

This week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is visiting Washington, D.C. to discuss major issues impacting the U.S. and Mexico. With trade, labor, and immigration guaranteed to be important parts of the discussion and news cycle, the timing is ideal to highlight the urgent farm labor shortage, which is increasing inflation that ultimately impacts every American consumer’s bottom line.

Inflation is hitting Americans’ grocery bills hard. Grocery bills are rising at the fastest pace in more than 40 years. The American Farm Bureau Federation has found that a meal will cost a staggering $10.18 more than a year ago. That’s an increase of 17% since before the pandemic.

Since last summer, prices are up 36% for ground beef, 33% for chicken breasts, 33% for pork and beans, 31% for pork chops, 22% for lemonade and 19% for potato salad. These dramatic price increases mean that many American families are skipping traditional summertime barbecues and picnics altogether.

In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with bipartisan support. Since then, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Mike Bennet (D-CO) have taken the lead on negotiating improvements on the House’s solutions and moving the process forward. Passing new Senate legislation is critical to solving labor shortages facing America’s agriculture sector which is foundational to a healthy economy as a whole.IFPA Call for Senate Action LogosAbout:

ABIC Action is the political arm of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), a bipartisan coalition of over 1,200+ CEOs, business owners, and trade associations across 17 mostly red and purple states. ABIC Action promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens.

AmericanHort represents the entire horticulture industry, including breeders, greenhouse and nursery growers, retailers, distributors, interior and exterior landscapers, florists, students, educators, researchers, manufacturers, and all of those who are part of the industry market chain. The leading national association for the green industry, AmericanHort connects the industry across states and segments, giving members opportunities that expand their network and resources to perform better, grow, and prepare for the future.

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives since 1929. Our members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which in turn consist of nearly 2,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. The majority of America’s 2 million farmers and ranchers belong to one or more farmer cooperatives. NCFC members also include 16 state and regional councils of cooperatives.

The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) is the largest and most diverse international association serving the entire fresh produce and floral supply chain and the only to seamlessly integrate world-facing advocacy and industry-facing support. We exist to bring the industry together to create a vibrant future for all. We grow our member’s prosperity by conducting advocacy; connecting people and ideas; and offering guidance that allows us all to take action with purpose and confidence.

The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) is the only national association focusing exclusively on agricultural labor issues from the Agricultural Employer’s viewpoint. NCAE represents the interests of agricultural employers, growers, associations and others whose business interests revolve around labor-intensive agriculture.

New York Farm Bureau is New York State’s largest agricultural lobbying/trade organization. Its mission is supporting today’s agricultural needs and creating member opportunities for tomorrow through advocacy and education.

Utah Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest voluntary organization of farmers and ranchers – but really, we consist of more than 34,000 member families committed to protecting Utah’s farms and ranches, and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply. Our members live in all of Utah’s 29 counties and belong to county Farm Bureaus, which, in turn, comprise the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. Our mission is to inspire all Utah families to Connect, Succeed and Grow through the Miracle of Agriculture.