House rejects Goodlatte immigration bill with farmworker provision
The House today rejected an immigration bill sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
The vote was 193 to 231, with 41 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against it.
The bill included a proposal for a new farmworker visa program which was controversial in agriculture circles, but the American Farm Bureau Federation issued a last-minute statement today that its board of directors voted unanimously to support the bill “based on the strength of agricultural labor provisions included in the legislation.”
“The American Farm Bureau board was resolute and unanimous in its support of these agricultural labor reforms,” said Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “Those provisions authorize a new agricultural guest worker program and they go a long way toward fixing the biggest problem we face in agriculture — a shortage of agricultural labor that limits our ability to produce food, fiber and fuel.”
Duvall sent a letter to members of the House shortly after the AFBF board vote to all members of the House encouraging “yes” votes to move provisions of the new AG Act forward.
“The American Farm Bureau will continue to work for improved provisions for those who are helping to sustain our sector today,” the letter stated.
“While those workers should not be granted an unfair advantage over others, we must recognize the important contribution they are making to sustaining farms and ranches across the country and provide them the best possible path to legalization. But those changes cannot be made if H.R. 4760 fails and the legislative process comes to a halt.”
Duvall also noted that the bill was broad and contained provisions on which Farm Bureau does not take a position.
“The legislative failure leaves agricultural employers with the current H-2A program temporary ag-labor program run by the U.S. Department of Labor, which many farm groups have criticized as laborious and impractical in farm operations that need ag labor year-round,” DTN/The Progressive Farmer said in an analysis.
The House is also today considering another immigration bill that would provide some protections to the undocumented youth known as the Dreamers and the children who are separated from their parents at the border. But that bill has run into trouble and voting on that bill have been postponed until Friday. The second bill does not contain an ag worker provision.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.