Better Immigration Laws Could Help Lower Food Prices
Food prices in the U.S. have ballooned alongside inflation, now up 10.4 percent over the past year. One solution to that issue may come in the form of an immigration bill that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are now negotiating.
Known as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the measure was sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D–Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R–Wash.) and passed the House twice last year. It aims to improve the immigration mechanics behind the U.S. agricultural workforce, expanding legal pathways available to foreign workers and the domestic farmers who hope to hire them.
The ability to hire more agricultural workers translates into more helping hands for farmers and increased production of goods, which then means fewer food shortages and lower prices at the grocery store. “Consumers are seeing high costs of milk, produce, fruits, meat, and eggs in the supermarket because the Senate has not acted,” said Rebecca Shi, executive director of the American Immigration Business Coalition, in a press conference last week. Likewise, Newhouse expressed that the bill is an important step necessary to “fix our broken immigration system and combat the rising cost of food in our country.”
A broad coalition with multi-pronged interests backs the legislation. It attracted the support of 30 Republican representatives, over 250 farmers/producers associations, and over 100 organizations involved in immigration advocacy, labor, and economic growth.
The bill would establish a program for foreign agricultural workers “to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment.” That status would be contingent upon an individual working “at least 180 days in agriculture over the last 2 years” and would then be renewable if he or she performs farm work at least 100 days per year.
The legislation would also reform “the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers.” Particularly notable is a section that would help address the high demand for agricultural workers by “providing up to 20,000 H-2A visas per year (for 3 years) for dairy and other year-round agricultural employers,” “allowing the year-round
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