Support Grows for Bennet’s Affordable and Secure Food Act

242 Ag Groups Send Letter to Schumer, McConnell in Support of ASFA

Washington, D.C. — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet highlighted growing support for his Affordable and Secure Food Act (ASFA), including in a letter from 242 agricultural industry groups representing family farmers, ranchers, producers, and the agricultural industry urging U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to attach the bill to the end-of-year omnibus bill.

“I’m encouraged to see the growing support for my Affordable and Secure Food Act from farmers, labor groups, immigration advocates, and businesses across the country,” said Bennet. “There is no reason that Congress shouldn’t get this done before the end of the year to relieve the burden on family farmers and ranchers, strengthen our nation’s food supply, and lower costs for American families.”

ASFA would reform the H-2A visa program, provide farm workers with certainty, lower food prices for American families, and secure our nation’s food supply. As American families face the fastest rising food costs in four decades, this legislation addresses the farm labor crisis, a key driver of rising costs. Across the country, family farmers and ranchers face an acute shortage of skilled farm labor that not only drives up food prices, but also drives many family farms and ranches out of business.

In their letter, over 240 agricultural groups urge Schumer and McConnell to pass Bennet’s bill to address the farm labor crisis.

“The ongoing farm workforce crisis is hindering agricultural production and contributing to food price inflation. We must address this now, so our producers can continue to grow, feed, clothe, and fuel our nation,” said the industry groups in the letter. “The country cannot afford for the Senate to miss this opportunity to provide stability to both farmers and farmworkers. We implore the Senate to pass legislation to address our agricultural workforce challenges and ease inflationary pressure on food costs for all Americans.”

The ASFA reflects years of close input from farmers and ranchers, agricultural workers, and labor organizations. Specifically, the ASFA would:

  • Establish a program for agriculture workers, along with their spouses and minor children, to earn legal status. Farm workers in the program may earn a path to a green card after 10 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. 

Here’s what they’re saying about the Bennet-led effort:

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: Farmers push Congress to OK Bennet's Food Act

The Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and several agriculture businesses are calling on Congress to approve Sen. Michael Bennet’s Affordable and Secure Food Act before the end of the year.

The act, which Bennet introduced on Thursday, includes provisions that would reform the nation’s H-2A migrant worker rules in ways to make the program more predictable and affordable to farmers.

“U.S. farmers are facing tremendous pressures from rising fuel and other input prices, making it difficult to stay in business,” said Bruce Talbott, a Palisade fruit grower and president of the association.

“Passage of this bill would ensure a steady supply of agricultural employees, so that farms can continue to provide the American public with quality, U.S.-grown food.”

Fresno Bee: California Republican teams up with UFW on last-minute farmworker immigration bill

Under the Affordable and Secure Food Act, farmworkers would be eligible to earn a path to permanent residency, or a green card, after 10 years of agriculture work. The bill would also provide H-2A visas for year-round jobs for the first time and modernize the application process for H-2A visas...

The bill has widespread support among agriculture industry groups. 

“There is no doubt that agriculture has waited many years for immigration reform, and we are optimistic that this bill will finally accomplish this goal,” said Ian LeMay, president of the California Fresno Fruit Association and a supporter of the legislation, in a statement on Thursday.

Morning Ag Clips: Western Growers praises introduction of Senate farm labor bill

Following introduction of the Affordable and Secure Food Act, Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia issued the following statement:

“We greatly appreciate the leadership and determination demonstrated by Senator Michael Bennet in bringing this bill forward. Based on carefully negotiated principles enshrined in the bipartisan House Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the Bennet bill will provide regulated legal status to experienced agricultural workers and make desperately needed improvements to the existing guest worker program to better meet future farm labor needs.

“Approval of the Affordable and Secure Food Act will help ensure a stable, legal agricultural workforce and secure the reliability of our domestically produced food supply. The alternative – the deteriorating status quo – is to resign ourselves to food insecurity as we increasingly rely on foreign countries to provide food for our nation.

“We call on the Senate to take up and pass the Bennet bill in these final days of the lame duck session.”

Citrus Industry: Affordable and Secure Food Act Introduced in Senate

Specialty crop groups in the Southeast have longed for some type of legislation that would help control the wage rates that are spiraling out of control...

“The FFVA is supportive of the bill for the wage relief it would provide, pre-empting the 2023 AEWR increases of 15.5%,” the association announced.

Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford: U.S. Senate can stabilize our agricultural workforce and ease pressure on American pocketbooks

Nearly 20 percent of U.S. produce never left the farm this year due to a lack of farm labor. We have reached the tipping point. The economic impact lost by inaction is serious and is now directly impacting our food security and prices on the U.S. retail shelf.

That is why the U.S. Senate must act now to build on the House proposal and pass the Affordable and Secure Food Act in the lame duck session. This bill would not only allow more workers to come into the country every year to help bring in the harvest, but it allows the workers and families that have been working here for years and have become part of the fabric of farms and communities, to achieve legal status in a smart, safe manner...

Advancing this legislation is critical to the nation. All Americans should be concerned about the consequence inaction will have on global food security and a safe and affordable food supply at home. We ask leaders in the Senate to act quickly and decisively.

Fruit Growers News: Ag labor reform pushed by industry groups

The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA), USApple and Western Growers are supporting two U.S. lawmakers who want to reform ag labor...

IFPA applauds the bill to reform the H-2A visa program, which would provide certainty for American agricultural producers and farmers desperately in need of reliable, legal workers.

“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,” Robert Guenther, IFPA’s chief policy officer, said in a news release. “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.”

Thoroughbred Daily News: Racing in Eye of Immigration Reform in Washington

With potentially huge implications for horse racing, lawmakers are seeking an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act that would streamline the visa process and afford undocumented agricultural workers, including those in equine industries, a pathway to earn legal status...

Traditionally, equine workers have not been categorized as agricultural employees. But the Affordable and Secure Food Act includes workers “performing activities related to equines, including the breeding, grooming, training, care, feeding, management, competition, and racing of equines.”