National Council of Farmer Cooperatives today praised the framework for immigration reform released by a bipartisan group of eight United States Senators, especially the recognition of the unique on-farm labor needs of agricultural producers. NCFC is a member of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), which serves as the unified voice of agriculture in the effort to ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers and growers have access to a stable and secure workforce.
“The framework released today by these eight Senators represents a positive starting point from agriculture’s perspective, and we look forward to working with them as the legislative process continues to unfold,” said NCFC President and CEO Chuck Conner. “I would like to commend Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Bennet and Flake for their leadership and thoughtfulness on this issue.”
“What is notable in their proposal,” Conner continued, “is their recognition of two of the principles that have driven the AWC’s efforts: first, that the current, experienced farm workers who may lack legal status need to be given a chance at adjusting their status; and second, that agricultural employers need to have access to a program to provide a skilled workforce as current employees move on to other sectors.”
The AWC has developed principles that provide a framework program that can help meet both the current and future employment needs of agriculture. It moves beyond the shortcomings of current programs like H-2A, which in the last few years has become broken beyond repair. The proposal includes both an adjustment in status for current agricultural employees who lack documentation and a new, flexible market-based visa program to ensure that farmers will be able to find new skilled employees as current workers move on to new employment opportunities.
“I cannot stress enough just how important this issue is for a broad cross-section of agriculture, including both those with seasonal labor needs, such as many fruit or vegetable growers, and those with year-round needs, such as dairy farmers,” concluded Conner. “Without people to work on America’s farms and ranches, pick the crops or milk the cows, all other issues in agriculture become irrelevant.”