A Colorado Democrat is calling on his Republican counterparts to set aside border security concerns and take the lead on passing farm labor legislation.
Speaking on this week’s Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., discussed some of the challenges facing legislation he rolled out this week aimed at addressing the nation's farm workforce.
Bennet was unable to reach an agreement with the lead GOP negotiator, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo on ag labor reform. The two were trying to roll out a companion measure to the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
But Bennet says many Republicans point to border security concerns during any kind of immigration discussion, something that hinders the movement of a farm labor bill. However, Bennet says if Congress fails to act on approving his legislation it could have a serious impact on the current structure of American agriculture.
“I'm no stranger to border issues, and I think they're incredibly important. But what we're talking about right now is the end of the family farm in America,” Bennet said. “That really is the possible outcome of our failure to deal with this.”
Bennet's bill comes as Congress is winding down for the year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says his side of the aisle only plans to be available for votes until Dec. 22, a date largely expected to be dominated by government funding concerns on Capitol Hill. Bennet says he hopes that bill might be a vehicle for his legislation, something he acknowledges would be a “Christmas miracle,”
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“We're just going to have to see if there's some people that are willing to go to Mitch McConnell and ask him to put this as part of the omnibus, which is how we're going to have to get it passed,” said Bennet.
If his legislation were to get a floor vote, Bennet believes the Republican support would be there.
“There are Republican senators who are aware of this crisis, and there are Republican senators who if this bill came to the floor one way or another would vote for this bill. I think they're probably more than 10 which is what we need to pass this,” said Bennet.
Michael Marsh with the National Council of Agricultural Employers, Mary Nowak with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and Claudia Larson with the National Milk Producers Federation also appear on this week’s show to discuss the legislation and the broader farm labor picture.
You can watch this week’s show on Agri-Pulse.com.
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