The American Farm Bureau Federation says legislation introduced by a U.S. Representative from California would start a dialogue on Capitol Hill about agriculture labor issues.
Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and new chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee, recently introduced a bill addressing the legal status of agricultural workers. Paul Schlegel, AFBF public policy managing director, says the bill provides a path to legalization for agricultural workers, as well as their spouses and minor children.
“It’s one of the elements that everybody in agriculture recognizes we have to deal with if we’re going to help get a solution for our labor issue. So, it deals with the current workforce in agriculture and it changes their status from undocumented to legal.”
Farm Bureau supports the introduction of the bill, but Schlegel says it does not address the need for a guest worker program.
“The particular piece of legislation deals with one aspect of it, and it’s an important aspect, but the other critical component is coming up with a guest worker program that works for all of agriculture, and all commodities, all regions, all times of the year. There’s nothing in the bill about that. But, they know that, and they’re willing to start working with people to see what they can put together on a guest worker program.”
He says farmers and ranchers should contact their members of Congress to let them know we need a solution to agriculture’s labor issues.
“They ought to follow the issue, they ought to get acquainted with the bill and let them know how it affects them. And get ahold of their policy makers to say look, the bill may not be perfect, but the issue needs to be addressed in the broad terms, and we hope this is the start to a dialogue that will get something produced that we all care about.”