Feb 26, 2020
US House, others urge Senate to pass farm workforce legislation

Potato and apple industry leaders and several members of the U.S House of Representatives came together outside the Capitol Building Feb. 26 to implore the Senate to pass an agriculture labor reform bill.

In December, the House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by a 260-165 vote. The bill’s success in the House was likely due to its bipartisan leadership of Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, Dan Newhouse , R-Washington and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

Those three were joined by fellow House members Doug LaMalfa, R-California, Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida and Jimmy Panetta, D-Califonrnia, as well as the staff and executive committee of the National Potato Council (NPC), U.S. Apple Association President & CEO Jim Bair and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner at Wednesday’s press conference outside the Capitol. (See video here.)

“Every single apple must be picked by hand. I hear from farmers everyday that they leave apples on the tree to rot because they can’t find anyone to pick them,”
Jim Bair, CEO, U.S. Apple Association, said during the press conference.

Several House members acknowledged the Farm Workforce Modernization Act isn’t perfect, but it largely addresses needed changes in immigration and agriculture labor laws. They urged the Senate to make its own version of the bill and get it passed before the year is finished.

“It’s time for the Senate to perfect it and get it done,” said Newhouse, who added that inadequate labor is the biggest issue facing U.S. farmers today.

Speaking on behalf of the potato industry were NPC CEO Kam Quarles, NPC President Britt Raybould and NPC Vice President of Legislative and Governmental Affairs RJ Andrus.

Zeke Jennings, VGN Correspondent

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