Kicking The Can Down The Road: Farmers urge Congress to quickly pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act
As discussions continue surrounding the use of H-2A workers in agriculture, some producers are calling the Farm Workforce Modernization Act the best chance for agriculture to receive the help it needs.
On a vertically integrated farm in Idaho, you will find a third-generation farmer, Shay Myers. His operation grows, packs, and markets nine different consumer crops from asparagus to watermelon. Myers says the need for farm labor reform is real.
“Two springs ago when asparagus was generally harvested in April or May, we ended up donating at the end of the day, but we were unable to market over 150,000 pounds of our asparagus. That was due to the inability to cross H-2A workers with the speed that was needed, and there was no domestic availability of labor, and that meant that we lost all of the profit for that entire year,” said Myers.
Myers says a lack of available labor through the H-2A guest worker programs means higher prices for consumers.
“It just means more expensive food. We already have inflation pressure, but the fewer workers that are available, the higher the cost of those workers. The higher the likelihood of wasted food during the entire process from field to fork, the consumer will feel the cost implications.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. Myers says it is time to move the Bill in the Senate.
“Congress needs to fix it. This is 30 years that we’ve been trying to fix this problem and it’s really frustrating as a farmer, just as a citizen for that matter, to see how we keep kicking the can down the road. There’s no reason for the people not to fix this problem, there’s no reason for the farmers not to fix this problem, there’s no reason for the consumers not to fix this problem. People understand on both sides of the aisle the fact that it needs to get fixed.”
Myers says this legislation would not just benefit farmers and consumers, but the Workforce, too.
“They’re here because they want to make a difference for themselves and their families. It’s significant. It’s massive what they’re able to do with just a few year’s worth of effort, and I wouldn’t say little or light effort, but with a few years of coming here, they completely change the trajectory of their family and of their future, and that’s why they’re here.”
Myers encourages farmers to reach out to their members of Congress and tell them their specific need for getting the Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed in the Senate.