Farmers need labor certainty from the H-2A guestworker program. After years of working for reforms, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is the best chance for agriculture to receive the labor it needs.
Shay Myers is a third generation Idaho farmer, from a vertically integrated family farm, growing, packing and marketing nine different consumer crops, from asparagus to watermelon. Myers says the need for farm labor reform is real.
“Two springs ago, when asparagus was generally harvested in April in May, we ended up donating at the end of the day, but we were unable to market over 150,000 pounds of our asparagus. And that was due to the inability to cross H-2A workers with the speed that was needed, and there was no domestic availability of labor, and that meant that we lost all of the profit for that entire year.”
Myers says a lack of available labor through the H-2A guestworker programs means higher prices for consumers.
“It just means more expensive food. We already have inflation pressure, but the fewer workers that are available, the higher the cost of those workers and the higher likelihood of wasted food during the entire process from field to fork, the consumer is going to feel the cost implications.”
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. Myers says it’s time to move the bill in the Senate.
“Congress needs to fix it. This is 30 years that we’ve been trying to fix this problem and it’s really frustrating as a farmer, just as a citizen for that matter, to see how we keep kicking the can down the road. There’s no reason for the people not to fix this problem, there’s no reason for the farmers not to fix this problem, there’s no reason for the consumers not to fix this problem. People understand on both sides of the aisle the fact that it needs to get fixed, and it just needs to get fixed.”
Not only would the legislation benefit farmers and consumers, but it would also benefit the workforce, as well.
“They’re here because they want to make a difference for themselves and their families. And it’s significant, it’s massive what they’re able to do with just a few years’ worth of effort, and I wouldn’t say little or light effort, but with a few years of coming here, they completely change the trajectory of their family and of their future, and that’s why they’re here.”
Myers encourages farmers to reach out to their members of Congress and express the need for getting the Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed in the Senate.
“There are members who are working to make this happen. You’ve got Crapo, Republican from Idaho. You have Bennett from Colorado, these are the folks that need to hear from us and be encouraged to get this bill on the floor and voted on and passed.”