Clock Running out on Needed Labor Legislation


Despite passage by the House of the Farm Work Force Modernization Act (FWFMA), realization of the objectives will depend on Senate action given the calendar, it is unlikely that a bi-partisan compromise will be achieved despite overwhelming support from the agricultural sector.  Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) have worked on a companion bill to the House version with the hope of adoption before the August recess.  When Congress returns, passage of appropriations bills and campaigning will take priority over needed legislation. The Senate bill includes an expansion in the number of visas for farm workers, rights of illegal aliens and wage policy, a core issue. The FWFMA is an extension of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act that applies to workers holding H-2A visas.


Economists have confirmed that granting more visas would be beneficial to agriculture and to consumers and would be deflationary, lowering food costs.


Senators on the Republican side of the House have expressed concern over illegal immigration and are demanding resolution of this problem before addressing the Farm Work Force Modernization Act.  This stipulation will doom the bill in the Senate since the bill will require 60 supporting votes to avoid a filibuster.  Given that the composition of both the House and Senate will change after the mid-term election, passage of the FWFMA will be necessary in the current Congress for enactment before mid 2023.