This is a critical moment for the House of Representatives to hear from dairy farmers. Yesterday, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he plans to bring two competing immigration reform packages up for a vote next week. It is not guaranteed that the workforce challenges facing dairy farmers’ will be addressed in these packages.
The first proposal to be considered is a measure drafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Securing America’s Future Act (SAFA) and supported by the conservative Freedom Caucus. It would establish a new, year-round “H-2C” visa program for agriculture guestworkers, as well as provisions calling for the expansion of e-verify, additional border wall construction and legal status for DACA beneficiaries. Unfortunately, some lawmakers have called for the ag labor provisions to be removed but it is unclear if changes will be made to the bill.
The second, a compromise immigration package, is a work in progress. It is still being assembled by Ryan and other party leaders in consultation with both moderate and conservative Republicans. We do not know if it will contain any relief for farmers struggling to find and retain workers. Note that the immigration discharge petition supported by moderate Republicans and Democrats is not expected to move forward due to these votes.
It is unclear if either proposal will gain enough support for passage and the outlook in the Senate is also murky. However, it is crucial that our lawmakers do not forget about agriculture during this critical moment. Any immigration package that the House advances should contain relief for the labor issues facing dairy farmers and the rest of agriculture.
Action: Please call your Representative today! Lawmakers need to hear that you support an immigration package that gives dairy farmers a solution that retains our current workers and creates a long-term legal pathway for new workers. Tell them dairy farmers have needed this type of reform for years and that they cannot wait any longer.
Find your Representative’s office number here. Outreach should focus on the House at this time. Please contact Edge staff if you have any questions. We will keep you updated on developments.