Bipartisan Immigration Reform Bill Seeks to End Agricultural Labor Crisis

The International Fresh Produce Association celebrated the rollout of the bipartisan Affordable and Secure Food Act to reform the H-2A visa program, providing certainty for American agricultural producers and farmers desperately needing reliable, legal workers.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (Colorado), Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), Salud Carbajal (D-California), and David Valadao (R-California) held a press conference along with farm workers and agricultural employers. They announced a plan to reform the H-2A visa program, provide farm workers with certainty, lower food prices for American families, and secure the nation’s food supply.

The Affordable and Secure Food Act (S. 5282) reflects years of close input from farmers, ranchers, agricultural workers, and labor organizations. The bill seeks to:

  • Establish a program to earn legal status for agriculture workers, spouses, and minor children. Farm workers in the program may earn a path to a green card after ten years of agriculture work.
  • Reform the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker program by providing H-2A visas for year-round jobs for the first time, modernizing the application process, creating more wage certainty, and ensuring critical protections for H-2A farm workers. 
  • Establish a mandatory, nationwide electronic verification system for all agricultural employment, with high standards for privacy and accuracy. 
  • Lower the cost of and increase access to farm workers and rural housing. 

Related Article: Agriculture Leaders Call on Senate to Pass Immigration Reform for Farmworkers

“Crippling labor shortages have existed for years, so the fresh produce industry implores Congress to finally act on the most important thing that can be done to stabilize the agricultural workforce, ease the strain on the supply chain and lower the cost to consumers,” said Robert Guenther, IFPA’s chief policy officer. “Congress must not kick the can down the road again or offer hollow promises of solving this problem for next year. Now is the time.”

In the last year, food costs have risen faster than at any time in four decades, squeezing family budgets and forcing impossible choices between food, groceries, medicine, and housing. A key driver of rising food costs is the acute shortage of skilled farm labor, leading to increased labor costs. This not only drives up food prices but also drives many family farms and ranches out of business.

“This plan is broadly supported by farmers, labor, immigration advocates, and business. There is no reason that we shouldn’t get this done. If Congress can’t get this done, it would not only be a massive missed opportunity, but a dereliction of our duty to the American people, the rural economy in this country, and agriculture,” said Bennet.

“It’s not rocket science. Without an adequate workforce, our crops will go unharvested, and our already-delicate food supply chain will be placed further at risk. So let’s stop waiting and start acting,” said Newhouse.

IFPA, the largest and most diverse international association, speaks on behalf of the entire fresh produce supply chain, representing more than 2.2 million jobs and nearly $340 billion in U.S. total economic output. More than 3,000 members across 50 states have been advocating for immigration reform.