“We will either import our nation's agriculture labor or we will import our nation’s food.” This quote was given to me by a produce farmer in my home state of Florida. If agricultural labor reform is not resolved soon this statement will become a reality. The United States Congress has failed to create a common sense dedicated Agriculture Guest Worker Program for over 30 years. The result is a hodgepodge of programs that don’t meet either the needs of our producers or that of the migrant that simply wants the opportunity to work in America.
Our producers advertise for domestic labor to work the fields and harvest their crops but when the requests go unanswered the farmer must rely on foreign workers. America has only a ten-month seasonal program called the H2A program but it has many shortcomings and does not fulfill the needs of year-round agriculture such as dairy, timber, poultry, and other year-round entities.
My colleagues and I introduced the “Labor Certainty for Food Security Act” earlier this year to create a common sense solution to the labor shortages our farmers face. Our bill provides a reliable, predictable, and legal workforce that brings certainty for the producer by doing the following:
· It creates a dedicated workforce for the agriculture sector both in the H2A, ten-month temporary program and the three year-year round program dedicated to agriculture.
· It removes the jurisdiction of agriculture labor from the Department of Labor to the USDA.
· It removes the arbitrary Department of Labor wage rates known AEWR (Adverse Effective Wage Rate) and replaces it with a common sense rate.
· It allows workers to apply prior to entering the United States so they do not have to enter illegally into our country.
This program allows for people that have entered the country illegally to enter these programs after paying a fine. It does not provide a pathway to citizenship, yet it does not prevent one from applying for citizenship once they become enrolled in the program.
The issue of Ag labor has been ignored for far too long. The “Labor Certainty for Food Security Act,” is the right piece of legislation to solve our Ag labor shortage, bring certainty to our producers, and food security to the American people.
Read more about our guest worker proposal here.