November 17, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, November 16, U.S. Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Jim Costa (D-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) joined more than 100 farmers and agricultural producers from across the nation to demand that the U.S. Senate fix the ongoing agricultural workforce crisis in this lame duck session by the end of December. Stefanie Katzman, of S. Katzman Produce, represented International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) at the podium via this recording of the briefing.
Speakers stressed that food prices were up 13% this fall from a year ago and that, absent reform, farmers will see their costs rise by at least $500 million per year. Today’s D.C. press conference followed dozens of events with the same message held this year across the country. From Kansas to South Dakota, Wisconsin to Arizona, farmers and producers have raised the urgency of fixing the agricultural workforce crisis to protect national food security and lower food prices.
“My business as a wholesaler is located in the middle of the supply chain. I speak to hundreds of farmers every day,” said Katzman. “That’s how I know that the farm labor crisis is not just a farming crisis. It’s affecting the entire supply chain right down to the American consumer. In order to make fresh fruits and vegetables affordable and accessible, we need the labor force to [be modernized]. So we’re asking all Senators, because this has to happen now. We’ve been working on this for months and months, and now we’re down to just days. So we’re asking for your support and action, because action speaks louder than words and that’s what we need to get this done.”
This week, the first in the lame duck session following the 2022 midterm elections, the American Business Immigration Coalition Action, the Idaho Dairymen's Association, International Fresh Produce Association, AmericanHort, the National Council of Agricultural Employers, U.S Apple Association, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives,, U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc, the International Dairy Foods Association, and other agricultural and business leaders will meet with more than 100 U.S senators and representatives, to bring a clear message: It’s time to pass Senate ag workforce solutions. Food security is national security—Congress must fix the ag labor crisis this year.
In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with bipartisan support. That was a good start, and now in the Senate, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Mike Bennet (D-CO) have taken the lead on negotiating improvements on the House's solutions and moving the process forward. Passing new Senate legislation is critical to solving labor shortages facing the agriculture sector and sustaining our economy as a whole.
On the national level, Texas A&M International University released data from a new economic study on the link between stabilizing the agricultural workforce and decreasing inflation and consumer prices, showing that ensuring farmers have a stable, secure, reliable, and legal workforce is crucial to keeping America's grocery shelves stocked, combating inflation, and lowering food prices (including milk, eggs, meat, and produce) for all domestic consumers.
Addressing workforce shortages facing farm employers and stabilizing the H-2A visa application process is also crucial for enhancing our national food security by protecting domestic agriculture production. According to the USDA, next year, for the first time in U.S. history, we as a country will be importing more agricultural goods than we export.