Rep. Duffy Bill Would Expand H-2A to Year-Round Dairy Jobs
Agricultural Employers Weigh In with Trump on Immigration
A national coalition of 70 agricultural employer associations last week sent President Trump a letter stating its interest in immigration reform. The letter is posted on the website of the Agricultural Workforce Coalition.
The three-page letter’s conclusion calls for two key legislative changes to the immigration system: “work eligibility for our existing workforce” and “farmer-friendly programs to provide future legal guest workers.”
The request for “work eligibility for the existing workforce” relates to the letter’s stated need for “maintaining access to our current workforce.” Acknowledging that many farmworkers are undocumented immigrants and cannot easily be replaced, the letter informs the President that “an enforcement-only approach to immigration” would be devastating to farmers and the agricultural economy.
The growers’ letter does not request that undocumented farmworkers be granted an opportunity to earn legal immigration status and citizenship. Nor does the letter address the status of the spouses and children of undocumented family members.
Rather, the letter vaguely tells the President that the growers want legislation to “allow for work authorization for experienced agricultural workers.” Thus, the growers support legislation that would grant undocumented farmworkers a mere temporary work permit.
Immigration reform is urgently needed, but it must be fair, humane and respectful of farmworkers and their family members. Temporary work permits – or guestworker status – would deprive them of economic bargaining power and political power. This is a nation of immigrants. Farmworkers and their family members deserve an opportunity for immigration status.
A large part of the growers’ letter focuses on the demands for short-term changes to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program and its eventual replacement by a new agricultural guestworker program. Our views on this longstanding demand are available elsewhere. Here, we briefly restate that (1) the H-2A agricultural guestworker program is already abusive toward both U.S. farmworkers and foreign guestworkers and its modest protections and their enforcement should be strengthened, not be weakened, and (2) if this country needs additional farmworkers in the future, they and their family members should be given the opportunity to come to this country and work as not merely as guestworkers but as immigrants who are eligible for citizenship.
Undocumented farmworkers and their family members very much need immigration reform. They are vulnerable in many ways. Now, increased immigration enforcement is deporting farmworkers, breaking up families, subjecting farmworkers and their children to fear and disrupting agricultural production. We must continue to fight against harsh immigration enforcement that punishes farmworkers and their family members. We must also continue to fight for a compromise on immigration reform that respects the humanity of farmworkers and their families.
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We are delighted to host guest blogger LeAnne R. Ruzzamenti, Director of Marketing Communications for the Equitable Food Initiative
Equitable Food Initiative brings together growers, retailers, farmworkers and consumers to transform agriculture and create a safer, more equitable food system. It’s a lofty goal and one we believe can only be reached when everyone comes to the table, agrees that fundamental changes need to occur, and finds value for themselves in those changes.
Like many who become familiar with EFI, after touring a certified farm, Congresswoman Julia Brownley called EFI a “win, win, win – good for farmers, farmworkers and consumers”. That three-way win is only possible when all parties uphold their commitments to each other.
Growers need to provide not only a fair work environment, but one where farmworkers are engaged to identify potential issues and protected when they speak up. Farmworkers need to stay engaged to ensure safer and efficient farm operations. Retailers and consumers need to recognize and support the effort to create a safer, more equitable food system by purchasing EFI-certified fruits and vegetables.
Through its training and certification program, EFI has had great success in bringing all parties to the table to understand one another’s needs and make some of those necessary fundamental changes.
The success and certification doesn’t come easy. Growers and farmworkers need to find trust and rely on one another to reach the high standards set out under EFI certification. But it’s a worthy effort, and every day we hear reports from EFI certified farms of better working conditions, fewer absences and workers who are engaged and solving problems in ways that management would not have even considered.
During Farmworker Awareness Week, we ask you to think about the seat that you hold at the table and how you are working with others to find and build shared value.
When you buy EFI-certified, Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured™ fruits and vegetables, you know that farmworkers were treated fairly, experienced decent working conditions and were engaged in following food safety and pest management protocols.
Celebrate Farmworker Awareness Week by making a commitment to buy EFI-certified fresh produce. Your support of the growers, retailers and farmworkers who have made a commitment to one another through EFI will bring even more people to the table.
Join EFI's email list today to stay informed on where to buy certified fruits and vegetables and take your seat at the table.
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