Organizations representing a broad cross-section of agricultural employers today announced the formation of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC). As the unified voice of agriculture, the AWC's goal is to seek legislation that ensures America's farms, ranches and other agricultural operations have access to a stable and skilled workforce.
In particular, the Coalition, recognizing that existing programs and previous proposals have proved unworkable, is putting forward a framework that includes both an earned adjustment in status for current experienced farm workers and a program to ensure that producers continue to have access to a workforce as current agricultural employees move on to other jobs. A key to the framework will be ensuring that it meets the needs of all of agriculture—both those employers with seasonal labor needs and those who provide year-round employment opportunities.
American agriculture as we know it would not be possible without the contributions of more than 1.5 million hired workers each year. Beyond the farm gate, each of these workers supports two to three full-time jobs in the food processing, transportation, farm equipment, marketing, retail and other sectors. Ensuring that farmers, ranchers and growers have access to the workers they need to maintain their productivity and competitiveness will help support continued growth in employment across the economy and in areas far removed from farm country.
"The continued production of labor-intensive agricultural crops and products in the U.S., ranging from dairy and livestock to fruit, vegetables and tree nuts, cannot be accomplished without vitally important labor provided by skilled and experienced farm workers," says Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. "Without people to work on America's farms and ranches, pick the crops or milk the cows, all other issues in agriculture become irrelevant."
"We have an unprecedented opportunity now that Democrats and Republicans are having a serious conversation about the critical need for immigration reform—an opportunity that cannot be wasted," adds Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers. "Agricultural employers have come together as never before in lock-step and agreement about a workable proposal that will serve the needs of farmers, workers and the American people. The time for immigration reform is now."
"This coalition framework proposal will help American agriculture achieve a market-based, flexible agricultural worker program that makes sense for everyone," says American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. "It's important for workers, farmers and especially consumers that we have a legal, stable workforce in place. It's time to move the discussion forward and find a solution. It's time to meet agriculture's labor crisis head on."
Association members of AWC:
American Farm Bureau Federation
American Nursery & Landscape Association
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
National Council of Agricultural Employers
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Milk Producers Federation
U.S. Apple Association
United Fresh Produce Association
Western Growers Association
Western United Dairymen
Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform
More is at www.agworkforcecoalition.org