House Democrats are about to attempt something that Washington hasn’t been done in over three decades: Enact immigration reforms that would give farmers better access to foreign workers while offering legal status to their existing employees.
A sweeping proposed overhaul of the H-2A farm labor program would have varying impacts on worker wages, while cutting farmers’ transportation expenses and reducing the number of applications farms have to file to import employees.
From California to Georgia, farmers can’t find enough workers to harvest their crops or milk their cows. Combined with Congress’s decades-long failure to act on long-promised comprehensive immigration reform, the result is that U.S. consumers are paying more for a less-secure food supply as more production moves south of the Mexican border in search of farm labor.
The policy session at the close of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention wasn’t exactly an action-packed affair, but several policy shifts approved by members could have ripple effects on farm policy.
House Republican leaders are promising to put a bill on the floor this month to address farmer's demand for more workers but the fractious immigration debate in June suggests that passing an ag labor measure won't be easy.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, there were 33,830 positions requested through the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program, the highest ever for the October-through-December period and a near 17 percent increase over the same quarter in the previous year.
When you think of the challenges farmers face finding good workers, the first areas that come to mind probably are along one of the U.S. coasts. But the problem is also affecting the nation’s Heartland, where states like Iowa are facing an ever-worsening labor shortage.