NMPF Welcomes House Ag Labor Working Group Final Report, Calls for Legislative Action

NMPF lauded the House Agriculture Committee’s March 7 release of its bipartisan Agriculture Labor Working Group’s final report. The final recommendations represent the culmination of nearly nine months of discussions among working group members and stakeholders, including NMPF.

NMPF specifically commended working group members for unanimously supporting opening the H-2A agricultural visa program to dairy farmers and other year-round employers. NMPF staff had previously briefed the working group on dairy’s workforce needs and served as the dairy industry policy resource during the drafting of the group’s initial report, which was released last November.

“We commend the House Agriculture Committee and its Ag Labor Working Group for forging ahead and reaching agreement on recommendations to make badly needed reforms to our nation’s H-2A agricultural visa program,” said NMPF president and CEO Gregg Doud in a statement.  “We are especially grateful for the working group’s unanimous support for allowing dairy farmers and other year-round employers long-sought access to the program.”.

Election-year dynamics create a difficult climate for ag labor legislation, but NMPF hopes that the bipartisan consensus reached in the final report can help set the table for any possible opportunity to address dairy’s workforce concerns of accessing H-2A and protecting dairy’s current workers and their families.

“Dairy’s workforce needs remain dire, and we urge Congress to heed the Ag Labor Working Group’s strong recommendation,” said Doud.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman GT Thompson, R-PA, and Ranking Member David Scott, D-GA, formally launched the Agriculture Labor Working Group last June. Thompson and Scott deputized committee members Reps. Rick Crawford, R-AR, and Don Davis, D-NC, to spearhead the working group.

“Again, thanks to the committee and to its leadership, Chairman GT Thompson, R-PA, and Ranking Member David Scott, D-GA, as well as Working Group co-chairs Reps. Rick Crawford, R-AR, and Don Davis, D-NC, for their bipartisan leadership in this important and timely effort,” said Doud.

NMPF Statement on Appropriations Language Allowing Dairy Farmer Participation in H-2A Program

From NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern:

“NMPF thanks Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) for their tireless efforts on behalf of America’s dairy producers to include year-round employees on farms in the H-2A farm worker visa program. We urge Congress not to delay providing dairy farmers with access to the H-2A program during a time of critical labor needs.

“Dairy farmers largely have not been able to use H-2A visas because the current program is limited only to the temporary and seasonal labor needs of agricultural employers. The current H-2A program simply isn’t an option for a commodity that ‘harvests’ its product multiple times a day, every day.

“The Cuellar-Newhouse bipartisan amendment to this year’s Homeland Security Appropriations bill would allow farm employers to use the H-2A visa program to hire foreign workers, regardless of whether those employees are engaged in temporary or seasonal work. Under this amendment, dairy farmers and other year-round producers could use the H-2A program to supplement their domestic workforce.

“Beyond just providing dairy temporary access to the H-2A program, the measure is important because we must continue to build momentum for ag labor reform as we await a Senate measure that carries forward and improves upon the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which the House approved in a bipartisan vote in March.

“Recent history shows bipartisan support for farm workforce legislation that addresses the needs of producers and farmworkers. It is critical that the government continues to build on these bipartisan efforts to create a system that provides secure, legal employment. We thank lawmakers for their efforts toward achieving this goal.”