Editorial

Farm Workforce Modernization Act, Smart Legislation

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

I am an Idahoan. I grew up on a dairy and have worked in the dairy industry nearly my entire life. I support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. It is good conservative legislation that supports legal immigration and really takes a look at the reform we as Americans have been demanding.

A few weeks ago, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Resolution 5038, also known as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. This bipartisan legislation was negotiated between democrats and republicans over a seven-month period. It is well thought out and takes a good hard look at what the stateís economy and our industry need. Without this Act, Idahoís dairy industry simply wonít be able to survive.

I would like to take a moment and thank Congressman Mike Simpson for being active in the billís negotiations and a co-sponsor and Congressman Russ Fulcher for voting yes. They both looked at the issue and they looked at the Act and saw that this will preserve agricultureís experienced workforce by allowing our existing farmworkers to earn legal status, without creating amnesty. This is the right approach to immigration issues and guaranteeing a legal workforce to ensure an abundant, safe and affordable food supply.

So, what does the legislation actually say? There are three main provisions to H.R. 5038.

First, it offers earned legalization to our current workforce and allows immediate family members living with them to stay. It does not give any handouts. It allows agricultural workers to get right by the law with a background check and payment of back taxes and to earn legal status by working on farms.

It would allow workers to continue doing their jobs, and it would allow dairy operators to hire people needed to do the work this state needs.

Second, this bill streamlines the H-2A Program and allows farm owners with year-round needs into the program for the first time. This is critical to the dairy industry since the job runs 24 hours, 365 days a year. In our current situation we canít find enough people who are willing, able and legally allowed to get this critical work done.

Third, H.R. 5038 requires farm employers utilizing the H2A Program to use the E-Verify system for new hires to confirm their backgrounds are legitimate.

The Idaho dairy industry provides about 40,000 jobs in this state, more than $10 billion in economic output and $160 million in state and local taxes. Dairy makes up about one-third of the entire agricultural sector of Idaho and we are second in the nation in net farm income. Food processing and agriculture generate one-fifth of this stateís total economic output. And it is important to remember that agricultural jobs create even more job opportunities because when it thrives because more truck drivers, service workers, grocery stores, teachers and more are needed.

Thank you to Representatives Simpson and Fulcher for recognizing the importance of this Act and standing up and voting yes. This is an important step in the right direction. We look forward to the chance to work with Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and President Trump, toward the same goal.