Agriculture Groups Call for Senate Action on Ag Workforce ReformMon, 22 Mar 2021 14:49:44 CDT
The steering committee of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) today called on the United States Senate to develop and pass legislation addressing the labor crisis faced by agriculture. The call came in a letter which was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, AmericanHort, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Council of Agricultural Employers, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Potato Council, United Fresh Produce Association, USAFarmers, U.S. Apple Association, and Western Growers.
“One of the greatest challenges for U.S. agriculture is the labor shortage that impacts farmers today and jeopardizes their future success. We must address this workforce crisis threatening farms across the United States so our producers can continue to feed, clothe, and fuel our nation. Doing so requires providing stability for our existing workers and key changes to the H-2A program,” the groups state. “We implore the Senate to put forward its ideas and solutions in a bipartisan manner to address our agricultural workforce challenges.”
The letter notes both the uncertainty that current farmworkers across the country face and the struggle for agricultural employers in filling open jobs. The groups also highlight the longstanding problems and limits of the current H-2A guest worker visa program for agriculture, including the inability to fill year-round farm jobs through the program. Another problem with the H-2A program, the letter states, is the use of a flawed survey to set wages, making them prone to outsized annual increases and leaving farmers without the predictability needed to remain economically competitive.
“Many farmers do not see a future in labor-intensive agriculture as the margins between profitability and loss grow thin due to the federal government’s outdated temporary guest worker program and broken immigration system,” the letter concludes. “As representatives of agricultural organizations throughout the United States, we stand ready to help you develop and pass legislation to fully address the needs of American farmers by stabilizing the current workforce, addressing enormous costs to use the H-2A program, and enabling year-round producers to access the H-2A program.”
A copy of the letter is available here
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