May 22, 2017Lawmakers react to ag labor concerns
Two bills with different perspectives were introduced in response to agriculture’s farm labor crisis. Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) (joined by Patrick Leahy D-VT, Michael Bennet D-CO, Mazie Hirono D-HI and Kamala Harris D-CA), introduced a bill that would protect undocumented farmworkers from deportation under President Trump’s strict policy changes.
Under the Agricultural Worker Program Act, farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years may earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three or five years, depending on the total hours worked in agriculture, would be eligible to adjust to a green card or legal permanent residency.
The second bill, introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), would give individual states access to temporary visas for guest workers in agriculture and other industries. The State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act of 2017 does not place occupational restrictions on those visas. The bill would grant visas for up to three years, addressing the needs in states whose guest workers are not seasonal.
The National Potato Council (NPC) issued a statement regarding the new bills introduced.
“NPC continues to advocate for Congress to address the full scope of the agricultural labor crisis which includes: strengthening of border security and interior enforcement, a guestworker program that is responsive to the needs of agriculture, and stability of the current workforce to minimize the short-term impact on consumers and producers,” the NP statement read. “It would be extremely destructive for the U.S. economy if Congress moved forward on an ‘enforcement-only’ approach without concurrently providing competitive solutions to the agriculture industry’s labor needs.”