US ag labour bill a "step in the right direction", says NPPC

The US House of Representatives introduced the Farm Workforce Modernisation Act on 3 March, hoping to address labour shortages in the US agriculture sector.

5 March 2021, at 8:30am

Legislation introduced on Wednesday in the US House of Representatives, the Farm Workforce Modernisation Act, would reform the H-2A visa program to address the agricultural labour shortage. Among other provisions, it would amend the H-2A program to allow a capped number of visas for farmworkers to work year-round. The following statement is attributable to National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Jen Sorenson, communications director for Iowa Select Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa.

“The US pork industry is suffering from a serious labour shortage, negatively impacting farms and processing plants. Unfortunately, the current H-2A visa program is designed for seasonal agriculture, ignoring the needs of US pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers. Without visa reform to support a sustainable workforce, production costs may increase, which could lead to higher food prices for consumers.

“NPPC thanks the bill’s sponsors Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) for jumpstarting this critical conversation, and believes this legislation is a step in the right direction. We look forward to working with Congress to enact meaningful labour reform that both opens the H-2A program to year-round labour without a cap and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country. Though changes to the current proposal will be necessary to meet those needs, we’re confident Congress will find a solution that works for all parties.”

The US pork industry offers good jobs with solid pay and benefits, but most Americans don’t live near hog farms or harvest facilities and rural populations continue to decline; therefore, the US pork industry is largely dependent on foreign-born workers. Visa reform is needed to ensure that US livestock agriculture can compete globally and continue to provide safe and affordable pork to Americans and consumers worldwide.