Hundreds of agricultural organizations are pressing Senate leaders to move farm-labor legislation before adjourning for the year.
The American Farm Bureau Federation joined the letter, offering the group's first sign of public support for a possible compromise version of the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would expand the H-2A visa program and provide a path to legal status for domestic workers.
The letter comes from the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and more than 350 of its members. In a message to Senate Democratic and Republican leadership, the letter says the country “cannot afford for the Senate to miss this opportunity to provide stability to both farmers and farmworkers.”
The chances of passing immigration reform will be lower in the next Congress with Republicans taking over the House.
Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, have been working for months on a compromise with the FWMA, which has passed the House in the last two sessions of Congress. AFBF has been the leading holdout, expressing concern about the H-2A wage provisions and the possibility it could lead to lawsuits against employers.
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The letter notably does not explicitly mention the FWMA, only saying that the House has passed legislation that is “not perfect and needs improvements,” and “it is time now for the Senate to act before the end of the year.”
Crapo told Agri-Pulse Tuesday the senators remain "very engaged" in talks to produce a bill, but he stopped short of saying he was hopeful.
“Without immediate action by the Senate, the federal government’s outdated policies and broken immigration system are forcing many farmers to consider whether they can continue in labor-intensive agriculture,” the letter says.
Reports emerged earlier this week of a possible breakthrough in the Senate on an ag labor bill with Bennet and Crapo as well as a separate measure to offer a path to legal residency for the “Dreamers,” people brought to the U.S. as children but born elsewhere. No deal on either subject has been announced.
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