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Ag Groups Call on Congress to Address Farm Labor Crisis Before Moving on Mandatory E-Verify

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Chuck Conner
Chuck Conner

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) called on Congress today to enact legislation that would address the labor crisis faced by American agriculture before implementing a mandatory E-Verify system. The call came via the testimony of Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), a member of the AWC, during a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) called the hearing to examine The Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772), legislation introduced during the previous Congress.  The measure would mandate the use of the E-Verify system by employers to confirm the legal status of prospective employees. “Mandatory E-Verify without addressing agriculture’s broader labor crisis would be devastating. As an industry, we recognize interior enforcement is needed; it just cannot be decoupled from addressing agriculture’s workforce concerns,” Conner testified. “Let me be very clear: the agricultural industry would be forced to oppose any E-Verify legislation that does not also address the agricultural workforce crisis.”

 

Conner noted that an estimated 70 percent of hired farm workers lack proper authorization to work in the United States, despite providing authentic-looking documents to employers. In addition, the only guest worker program available to agriculture – H-2A – is so cumbersome and divorced from the market based needs of agriculture that it provides just a small fraction of the workers needed by farmers and ranchers. “The vast majority of America’s farmers fully comply with the law. But the system created by Congress in 1986 is vulnerable to the use of false documents. Employers, including farmers, are not experts in spotting false documents,” Conner said. “So long as a solution is in place to ensure access to a legal and stable workforce, including our current, experienced workers—both year-round and seasonal—farmers would welcome a verification system that is simple, efficient and certain.”