April 6, 2021

Farm labor bill may need revisions to pass in Senate

Bloomberg reported recently that legislation to reform the broken foreign ag labor program and allow agricultural workers to earn legal status “has the potential to break through a partisan logjam in the Senate — if the measure gets revised to address Republican concerns about business liabilities and caps on year-round visas.”

The House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), on March 18, with 30 Republicans voting “yea.” Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have said they plan to introduce the bill’s companion in the upper chamber.

“There’s reason for some optimism in this Congress as Senator Crapo and Senator Bennet’s statement that they would introduce a bill is something that wasn’t possible in 2020,” said RJ Andrus, National Potato Council (NPC) VP of Legislative and Government Affairs. “We need to do everything we can to reform the guestworker program and prevent the federal government from increasing wages up to 20% annually in some cases.”

The news outlet reported that supporters of the legislation will need to attract Senate Republicans “who see a greater priority in stemming the growing numbers of immigrants coming over the border with Mexico.”

Although the bill has the backing many farm and food trade groups, including the National Potato Council, some Senate Republican leaders remain pessimistic on the bill’s outlook. Most notably, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Ranker John Boozman (R-Arkansas) said this week that “now is not the time to take up this bill given the ongoing crisis at our southern border. Our discussions on immigration must focus on ending the humanitarian crisis and securing the border before we move any other legislation that pertains to this issue,” reported Bloomberg.

— National Potato Council


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