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Ag coalition says federal guest worker program a ‘quick fix’

SAFE warns that relying on H-2A as the only solution could dramatically undercut the nation’s food production infrastructure, shutting down farms, raising food prices and creating a destructive economic domino effect.

Save America’s Food and Economy, otherwise known as SAFE, expressed concern over a House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled to discuss the current farm labor shortage crisis. Titled Regional Perspectives on Agricultural Guest worker Programs, the hearing may promote the H-2A federal guest worker program as the only solution to the crisis despite significant objections from the farming community.

SAFE argues that the H-2A program structure fails to admit migrant workers into the country in a timely and reliable fashion to fill temporary agricultural jobs in the absence of domestic labor. Coalition members support more viable solutions introduced before Congress, including Rep. Dan Lungren’s (R-CA) Legal Agricultural Workforce Act that proposes a new, more efficient agricultural worker program run by the Department of Agriculture in consultation with farmers. They also support realistic options for experienced farm employees whose labor feeds America.

SAFE warns that relying on H-2A as the only solution could dramatically undercut the nation’s food production infrastructure, shutting down farms, raising food prices and creating a destructive economic domino effect.

“While some in Congress think tweaking H-2A offers a quick fix, it will not work to solve the problem and secure our economy and food supply,” said SAFE President Craig J. Regelbrugge. “The Lungren bill is a sensible, smart part of the solution. We’re very concerned that the Committee may choose to push an approach that is failing when farmers have overwhelmingly said no to it.”

Some states with large farming communities are already seeing the consequences of passing stringent E-Verify laws without solutions for agriculture. Georgia’s economy has suffered from millions in economic losses as a result of laws passed last year. Alabama is already seeing a massive exodus of migrant farm labor from the state and could see its economy shrink by nearly $100 million. Even in states that have not mandated E-Verify, the labor crisis looms. Apple growers in Washington have described their industry as near a “chokepoint.”

“A growing number in Congress are beginning to recognize what we in agriculture already know:
E-Verify without a workable, economical way to ensure a legal agricultural workforce will be a disaster for American agriculture,” said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation and a witness scheduled to testify in today’s hearing.

SAFE contends that an ideal solution is not mutually exclusive from the need for enhanced immigration control tools. Since gaining momentum last year through increased media coverage and a growing coalition of thousands of supporters, SAFE has pushed vigorously for a solution that takes agriculture’s urgent labor needs into account.

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