The United Farm Workers (UFW) say that Congressional Republicans, as well as the American Farm Bureau Federation, are to blame for a lack of farm worker reform action before the end of the 177th United States Congress.
The U.S. Senate decided not to include the Affordable and Secure Food Act, which was introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) on Dec. 15 and excluded from the fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill. The omnibus passed the House last week and is on the way to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
Bennet’s bill was similar to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which passed in the U.S. House in March 2021. Both bills sought to modify the current H-2A work visa program. The bill also would have established a program for agriculture workers, along with their spouses and minor children, to earn legal status.
Many farm groups, including the Indiana State Poultry Association, Indiana Dairy Producers and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), had pushed the U.S. Senate to pass the bill to allow workers from outside the U.S. to stay as farm workers year-round. Those in favor of the bill said it will help with labor shortages at farms, including livestock farms, that require workers throughout the year instead of the 10-month maximum through the current H-2A visa program.
However, the American Farm Bureau Federation said the Affordable and Secure Food Act would “lead to wild swings in wage rates beyond the reach of many farmers and ranchers.”
“This is a very bitter disappointment for farm workers across the country who have more than earned the right to legal status through the sweat of their brow,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “It is however unsurprising that some of the most powerful grower institutions would ultimately choose to let their own workforce remain undocumented. Deep down, the leadership of the American Farm Bureau and the Senate GOP prefer to keep farm workers living in fear and uncertainty, because they know that an undocumented workforce is easier to intimidate and exploit. The American Farm Bureau would rather harm the economic interests of many growers they represent than extend any legal rights and protections to the workers whose work truly feeds America. Yet again we are reminded why building farm worker power through unionization remains the most urgent strategy in building a truly just food system.”
“Senate Republican leaders demonstrated shameful hypocrisy today—they will go home to enjoy holiday meals made possible by hard-working farm workers, all the while having blocked efforts to provide these essential workers with legal status,” said UFW Foundation Chief Executive Officer Diana Tellefson Torres. “While this is a significant setback, it won’t deter us from continuing to fight for legalization for farm workers. Our nation’s food security depends on it.”
Click HERE for the press release from United Farm Workers.
Sources: United Farm Workers, NAFB News Service