California Avocado Commission — Since 2019, the California Avocado Commission has worked with Congressional members, the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform and other agricultural leaders and organizations to voice support for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The FWMA House bill was passed with bipartisan support in November 2019 and again in March 2021. During the summer of 2021, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) led discussions concerning a Senate version of the FMWA. Those discussions were paused as the Senate engaged in efforts to pass the legislation via the budget reconciliation process. By the end of 2021, the Senate’s efforts to move “immigration via reconciliation” forward were rejected three times by the Senate parliamentarian. Further, the Build Back Better Act, which allocated funds for immigration reform and protections for farm workers, faltered after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced he could not support the BBB Act.
Currently, the fate of BBB is uncertain and its unclear whether new versions of the Act will contain significant immigration reform. Observers note the most likely path forward for meaningful immigration reform may be a bipartisan agreement on a package that can secure the 60+ votes needed to pass in the Senate.
While agriculture reforms remain a fairly popular component of a potential package and Senators Crapo and Bennet are interesting in furthering dialogue concerning a Senate version of FWMA, members of the Hill have noted they “aren’t hearing much from our constituents on the ag labor situation.” This year the agriculture industry faces pending H-2A wage rule changes that will not be favorable for growers, a potential jump in Adverse Effect Wage Rates due to the labor market and supply chain challenges, and continued challenges in securing a reliable workforce. In light of this, members of the agriculture industry are encourage to redouble their efforts to communicate with their elected leaders, especially their U.S. Senators, concerning the labor force challenges they face and the urgent need for action on reform.