Newhouse to Senate: Pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act NOW
“When we’re in the midst of a food crisis, why would we not implement change to ensure Americans are fed?”
Source: Dan Newhouse, Congressman from the State of Washington (R-WA)
September 15, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. –– Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) hosted a press conference to once again urge the Senate to pass his landmark legislation, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
Farmers and ranchers across the United States are in desperate need of a high-quality, reliable workforce, and the current H-2A guestworker program needs meaningful, bipartisan reform. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which passed the House for the second time in March 2021, creates a workforce solution for America’s agriculture industry. By creating a secure, reliable agriculture labor program, this legislation removes opportunities to work illegally in the United States, strengthens our border security, lowers food costs for Americans, and ensures we have a stable, legal workforce for our farms and ranches for years to come.
Rep. Newhouse was joined by the American Business Immigration Coalition Action (ABIC Action), National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), AmericanHort, the International Fresh Produce Association, U.S. Apple Association, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), and US Custom Harvesters, Inc.
“Across the country dairy farms have gone out of business because the labor crisis is preventing them from making the decisions and investments necessary to continue to operate. In many cases, it is no longer workforce uncertainty that affects farmers’ business decisions – it’s the new, unfortunate reality that there just aren’t enough workers. National Milk Producers Federation is leading advocacy for reforms that answer the needs of dairy farmers and farmworkers in addressing these dire workforce challenges. Dairy needs reform that both protects our current workers and their families and grants our farmers meaningful access to a workable guestworker program. NMPF thanks Congressman Newhouse for his hard work and leadership to bring us closer to the ag labor reform that dairy, and our country, so badly need.” — National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) Senior Director of Government Relations Claudia Larson
“No doubt the top issue we hear from farmers is their challenge accessing labor. Without addressing the ag labor crisis now, our efforts next year to develop a sound farm bill will, for many producers, ring hollow as they will lack the workers they need to plant or harvest crops or care for their animals. This is why the efforts by Senators Crapo and Bennett—and subsequent Senate action—is so vital. We thank Rep. Newhouse for his leadership getting a bipartisan bill through the House.” – National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) President & CEO Chuck Conner
“This week’s CPI report shows that Americans are facing the highest food price inflation since 1979—13.5% jump in groceries. We’re in a crisis and if we want Americans to be able to eat affordable, safe food and for our nation to be able to feed itself independently and not be forced to rely on imports, we need Senators Crapo and Bennet to file their Senate bill, building on the work the House has already done passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act twice. The cost of doing nothing is simply too great—it’s time to file this bill.” – American Business Immigration Coalition Action (ABIC Action) Executive Director Rebecca Shi
“The clock is ticking fast, but there is still time for the Senate to act on farm workforce reform that can provide immediate relief to agricultural producers and consumers. America’s food security intertwines with our national security. Reforms to our broken visa and immigration system will help tamp down food price inflation and strengthen local economies. Growers in our sector of agriculture report that one out of every five positions sits empty. Farmers need stability and certainty. The Senate must act now.” – AmericanHort Executive Vice President Craig Regelbrugge
“Increasingly, apple growers are turning to the H-2A guestworker program, and today, apples are probably the largest single commodity user of the program. But workers are often delayed due to administrative red tape and the costs associated with the program have outpaced inflation for decades. The reforms in the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act would bring the needed stability and predictability to the agriculture labor market as a whole and specifically to the H-2A program. Attention must now turn to the Senate.” – U.S. Apple Association President and CEO Jim Bair
“IFPA members tell us that, given how difficult the current H2A process is, labor shortages are now the norm rather than the exception. A lack of skilled farm labor causes a ripple effect in the supply chain, resulting in fewer options and higher prices for restaurant operators, supermarkets, schools, and everyday Americans. Immigration reform is the single most important action that can be taken to give relief to Americans struggling to fight unprecedented food inflation and provide healthy food choices for their families. The cost of inaction is far too high. No one can afford to wait any longer.” – International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) CEO Cathy Burns
Rep. Newhouse’s remarks as prepared can be found in full below:
Hello everyone, I’m Congressman Dan Newhouse from Washington State, and I’m here today to call on my Senate colleagues—yet again—to come together so we can finally fix our broken immigration system and combat the rising food costs every single American across the country is facing right now.
Agriculture producers across the country have been facing a labor shortage crisis for years, and recently, it’s only gotten worse.
I’m a farmer myself, and I can tell you that it is truly a struggle to find workers. I used to serve as the Washington State Director of Agriculture, and during that time, Washington’s governor made the decision to deploy prisoners to help pick apples—because there weren’t enough workers to do the job, domestic or foreign.
And I can tell you, we’re no better off now than we were then.
Without an adequate workforce, our crops will go unharvested, and our already-delicate food supply chain is placed further at risk.
Now, grocery bills are rising at the fastest pace we’ve seen in more than 40 years, and we know it’s because inputs, from labor to gas, are rising exponentially.
While I see firsthand the struggle our Central Washington producers face, this isn’t just an issue affecting Central Washington, this is a nationwide issue.
That is why I introduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act—to address these labor shortages and ensure we have a legal and reliable workforce for all of agriculture.
By ensuring a legal and reliable agricultural workforce, we can secure our food supply, strengthen our national security, reduce food costs, and raise wages and reduce unemployment for ALL American workers by creating value-added, upstream jobs for Americans.
When we’re in the midst of a labor crisis, why would we not pass labor reform?
When we’re in the midst of a food crisis, why would we not implement change to ensure Americans are fed?
When we’re in the midst of an inflationary crisis, why would we wait to lower food and production costs that Americans are desperate for?
It is far-past time we deliver solutions—not just empty promises—to our farmers and ranchers, to our farmworkers, and to all Americans who deserve a strong food supply chain.
And we already have that solution in the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
So let’s stop waiting, and start acting.
Let’s reform our broken immigration laws and ensure that those who wish to pursue a legal pathway or come to our country to contribute to our agriculture industry are able to do so.
Let’s protect our communities, strengthen our national security, and secure our southern border, but also recognize the contributions of immigrants and bolster our local economies, producers, and small businesses.
Let’s secure our food supply and ensure American families can afford the groceries they need.
And let’s do that today.
Senators, it’s time we move the Farm Workforce Modernization Act forward, and it’s on you now.
Because with your help, we can finally secure our border, lower food costs, and provide a lasting solution for our farmers and ranchers.
document, plus video of remarks [4:13 min.]