Farm Labor Overhaul Measure Fails to Pass


June 22, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn (RFD-TV) The road to a farm bill vote this week included the failure of a farm labor overhaul. The Goodlatte Bill passed a procedural vote 226-195, but was defeated in a final vote. The measure would have moved the H-2A agricultural guest worker program to the department of labor, making it less expensive for growers. It also would have helped establish the H-2C Program allowing for year-round guest workers.

The North Carolina Farm Bureau was in support of the legislation, but understands its presented under a tough umbrella. Larry Wooten, NC Farm Bureau President, said “We’ve been bogged down in this country, particularly in agriculture, by this whole immigration debacle – this broken immigration system – not just for the families that are being impacted, but for our farms and our businesses.” He continued, “We use a lot of labor in North Carolina – a lot of farm labor, and a lot of it has to be migrant labor that comes in here. So we need a ‘yes worker’ program that will work for our farmers.”

Without reform the labor shortage will likely continue. The Labor Department reports the number of H-2A visa requests doubled since last year.

And on the flip side, the labor shortage has been good for worker wages. According to USDA, since 1989 the average hourly rage for hired farm workers has increased by 1% per year, reaching $13.32 per hour in 2017. Non-supervisory farm workers averaged $12.47 per hour. Higher demand for farm labor and a lower supply of immigrant labor since 2007 have contributed to those rising wages.