Newhouse, farm groups urge Senate action on farmworker immigration bill

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., held a news conference recently with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the American Business Immigration Coalition, the International Fresh Produce Association, AmericanHort and the National Council of Agricultural Employers to urge the Senate to act on the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA).

The event was meant to rally support for the efforts of Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to introduce a Senate bill that builds on FWMA, NCFC President and CEO Chuck Conner said in a news release.

“For the past decade or so, I have had the privilege of bringing a wide range of agriculture groups together to work on a solution to the ag labor crisis in a united effort,” Conner said at the news conference. “Yet, it’s the events of the past few years, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine, that have highlighted for me a fact that often gets overlooked in this debate — our national security is tied to our ability to feed ourselves, and that ability is currently under threat from the ag labor crisis.

“Action is critical for another reason,” Conner continued. “Next year, Congress will be writing the 2023 farm bill. If the past is any guide, it will include dozens of programs critical to ensuring food security, from crop insurance to conservation, from research to nutrition. But, without action, hanging over the process will be one issue — ag labor — that threatens to undermine every program in that legislation. Quite simply, America’s farmers, ranchers, growers and co-ops cannot survive, let alone thrive, without a workforce. That is why this effort by Sens. Crapo and Bennett — and subsequent Senate action — is so important. It will address a growing crisis, enhance this country’s food security, provide the foundation for the success of the next farm bill, and provide a measure of certainty for producers at a time of great uncertainty.”

“Without immigration reform, we know that American consumers will continue to experience higher prices and fewer options at the grocery store, threatening food security and availability,” said International Fresh Produce Association CEO Cathy Burns. “Any threat to the availability of fresh produce undermines the health benefits of fruits and vegetables in combating the chronic diseases that cost our economy billions.”

At the press conference, Texas A&M University Associate Professor Sean Maddan released data from a new economic study on the link between stabilizing the agricultural workforce and decreasing inflation and consumer prices.

But Politico reported Thursday after the event that Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said Senate negotiators haven’t “figured out the right package” for reforming the temporary agricultural worker program. Politico noted that Tillis was once part of the talks, but has stepped back. Politico said Tillis added, “It’s not just about finding 10 Republicans, there are Democrats who are opposed to it, too, for different reasons.”


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