Nov 25, 2019
USMCA and ag labor bill updates, plus potato council adds familiar face

The bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act (HR 4916) was approved Nov. 20 by the House Judiciary Committee.

“Clearing the House Judiciary Committee by voice vote is an extremely positive development,” said Mike Wenkel, the chief operating officer for the National Potato Council. “NPC strongly supports moving the bill forward with the intention of improving it through every step in the process.”

Now that the House has marked up and favorably reported H.R. 5038 out of Committee, the next step will be consideration of the bill by the full House. Given the strong list of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors, it is believed that the bill will have the votes to move rapidly.

Proponents of the bill still face challenges, however.

According to Politico: “Top Republicans on the committee opposed the bill because they argue that it provides ‘amnesty’ to undocumented immigrants working on farms.”

Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA) agreed there needs to be a solution to the agricultural labor shortage, but he railed against the bill’s contents. “We’re dealing more with status than the worker situation,” said Collins, who noted repeatedly that the American Farm Bureau Federation does not support the legislation. (More than 300 other agricultural groups back the bill, however.)”

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said Nov. 22 that she expects floor action before the end of the year. However, there are few legislative days scheduled in December and the House will be busy with some tough legislative items, such as government funding.

Szymanski returns to NPC in new role

Mark Szymanski, National Potato Council

NPC is excited to welcome Mark Szymanski back to its D.C. team. He will head up the organization’s communications and media relations efforts.

“We are extremely pleased to have Mark back with us,” said Kam Quarles, NPC CEO. “His superior talents coupled with deep knowledge of our industry are perfect for creating an aggressive communications operation.”

Szymanski served as NPC’s director of public relations from 2011-14. Prior that role, he worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as director of communications for its Institute for Legal Reform. He also was a speechwriter for the Environmental Protection Agency during the President George W. Bush administration.

Since leaving the NPC in 2014, Szymanski has worked for several different veterans associations in leading communications roles and for microbreweries in the D.C. area.

USMCA & China delays?

On Nov. 21, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) cast doubt on the House being able to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) before the end of the year when she said, “I’m not even sure if we came to an agreement today that it would be enough to finish, but just depends on how much agreement we come to.”

Although at the time Pelosi said she’s “eager to get this done,” she left a meeting this afternoon with Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer without a deal on the USMCA.

The news of USMCA happened as China trade experts and people close to the White House said this week that the signing of the first phase of the U.S.-China trade deal, announced on Oct. 11, could slide to next year as the two sides continue to press forward on negotiations.

The U.S. is still scheduled to increase tariffs on $156 billion worth of Chinese goods on Dec. 15, so this remains as a date to watch for further action on the signing of a deal.

— From the National Potato Council 

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