American agriculture depends on a stable workforce to plant, harvest, process, and ship its crops. However, domestic workers provide an insufficient source of labor for the potato industry and for other specialty crop producers.
Farm Workforce Modernization Act
NPC, as a member of the Ag Workforce Coalition, is working to enact long-term solutions that establish effective border security, a path to legal work status for undocumented agricultural workers, and sustainable guest worker programs to fulfill the ongoing needs in the potato industry. The passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in late 2019 was the first time the House of Representatives had successfully acted upon agricultural labor reform in more than 30 years.
NPC welcomed the reintroduction of the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and cheered its passage on March 19, 2021. In the Senate, is advocating for improvements to the bill, including addressing the unpredictable wage rate for employers taking part in the agricultural guest worker program (H-2A). NPC and its partners throughout the agricultural industry are focused on getting a comprehensive labor solution passed by both chambers and signed by the President to ensure both growers and workers alike are provided long-term certainty and security.
The sole agricultural guest worker program (H-2A) supplies only 10% of the necessary agricultural workforce, in part because it operates in a cumbersome and unresponsive manner. In particular, the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) that is required for the H-2A program has skyrocketed in 2020 by over 20% in certain states. This unworkable structure drives employers away from the program and harms investment in rural America that would otherwise occur.
Ag Workforce Coalition
The National Potato Council is a leader in the Ag Workforce Coalition (AWC), which represents the combined interests of U.S. agriculture on legislation to address the ag labor crisis. The AWC was actively engaged in the negotiations on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act that passed the House of Representatives in 2021.