Coalition to address ag labor needs

Published online: Jan 17, 2013
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Organizations representing agricultural employers have formed the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) the group announced Friday.

As a unified voice of agriculture, the AWC's goal is to seek legislation that ensures America's farms, ranches and other agricultural operations have access to a stable and skilled workforce, according to a news release from the group.

The Coalition is putting forward a framework that includes both an earned adjustment in status for current experienced farm workers and a program to ensure that producers continue to have access to a workforce as current agricultural employees move on to other jobs. A key to the framework will be ensuring that it meets the needs of all of agriculture-both those employers with seasonal labor needs and those who provide year-round employment.

American agriculture would not be possible without the contributions of more than 1.5 million hired workers each year, according to AWC. Beyond the farm gate, each of these workers supports two to three full-time jobs in the food processing, transportation, farm equipment, marketing, retail and other sectors. Ensuring that farmers, ranchers and growers have access to the workers they need to maintain their productivity and competitiveness will help support continued growth in employment across the economy.

"The new AWC is essentially a coordinating coalition whose goal is to project a unified agriculture voice in the immigration debate we expect is coming," said Craig Regelbrugge, co-chair, Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR). "Because industry unity is so important, ACIR and many of its members are involved in AWC, as are other groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) who have not actively participated in ACIR in recent years. We are all working together to ensure that any immigration bill has Ag specific provisions that work."

"This coalition framework proposal will help American agriculture achieve a market-based, flexible agricultural worker program that makes sense for everyone," said Bob Stallman, AFBF president. "It's important for workers, farmers and especially consumers that we have a legal, stable workforce in place and time to move the discussion forward. It's time to meet agriculture's labor crisis head on."