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Farm Bill Passes in the Senate, Awaits the House

Farm Bill Passes in the Senate, Awaits the House

$955 billion legislation seeking agriculture reform passes in the Senate

On June 10, the Senate passed the farm bill in a vote of 66 to 27. The bill could reach the Senate for debate as early as next week — but there it will face an uncertain fate. The last time a farm bill was approved by both the Senate and the House was in 2008. Last year, a similar bill was passed in the Senate, but failed to come to fruition in the house.

The most recent bill is a five-year plan that will cost almost $955 billion over the span of 10 years. The legislation will fund programs such as crop insurance for farmers and food assistance for low-income families.

According to the co-author of the bill Senator Debbie Stabenow in her comments to the press (D-Mich.), the recent farm bill “is about growing things.”he added that when it comes to the economy, “that’s what we need to do in this country.”

To what degree the farm bill makes cuts to food stamps will be one of the greatest issues of contention between parties. Whether this hinders the bill’s passing in the House will become clearer, according to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), within the month.


Florida Right to Farm Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

Just hours after the Florida House gave final approval Thursday, a bill that would expand legal protections for farmers was sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

According to the News Service of Florida, the House voted 110-7 to support expanding the state’s “Right to Farm” law, a top priority of Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby. The Senate passed the bill (SB 88) in March.

DeSantis’ office said Thursday evening that the governor had formally received the bill from the Legislature and would need to act on it by April 29.

The Right to Farm law was initially approved in 1979 and helps shield farmers from what are known as nuisance lawsuits. The bill would expand those protections, in part by prohibiting nuisance lawsuits filed by people who do not own property within one-half mile of the alleged violations.


Parents' Bill of Rights passes Florida House controversial bill awaits fate in Senate.

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The Parents’ Bill of Rights — a bill moving through the Legislature which would restructure the power dynamic between parents and schools — took a big step toward becoming law Thursday when it cleared the Florida House in a mostly party-line vote.

The bill, critics fear, could out LGBTQ youth. It also would create a clear road map for parents to opt their children out of vaccines, sex education and coursework of their choice.

The 78-37 House vote — with two Democrats in support and four Democrats and one Republican abstaining — moves the broad legislation by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, as far as it went last year.

This time around, it is continuing to move through the Senate. It is to go before the Rules Committee, its third and final committee, 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“This bill is about changing the culture, returning the focus to families and empowering parents,” Grall said on the House floor Thursday. “Based upon the opposition to this bill, it is clear liberties have been taken for too long with regard to accessing our children.”

Rep. Erin Grall speaks during a press conference held by Gov. Ron DeSantis with House Speaker Chris Sprowls and other lawmakers about taking on foreign interference at Florida's colleges and universities, with an emphasis on preventing China and other countries from stealing intellectual property at the Capitol Monday, March 1, 2021. (Photo: Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat)

The bill comes at a time when the Legislature is keen to take up current culture war issues such as voting, protesting and transgender rights in sports.

House Bill 241 is backed by the anti-vaccine, anti-mask movement and ParentalRights.org, which lobbies for parents to have inalienable rights over the schools and to be treated under strict scrutiny from the law, making them, in effect, a protected class. The bill would achieve those goals.

The bill requires “important information” told to educators by students “should not be withheld” from parents.

Opponents, mainly human- and civil-rights groups, are concerned it would open the door for educators to disclose students' sexuality or gender identity to parents without discretion.

Parental Rights Florida, related to the national organization, has labeled lobbyists against the bill special-interest groups funded by corporations, which cannot be trusted.

Indian River County School Board member Tiffany Justice gives remarks against a mask mandate during a meeting at the school district office on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Indian River County. "It has become evident that this is a very divided issue," said Justice. (Photo: CRYSTAL VANDER WEIT/SPECIAL TO TCPALM)

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, told the House a story of his struggles coming out as gay to his parents and his initial comfort with a teacher he trusted.

“I wish every LGBTQ child could feel comfortable coming out to their families, knowing that they will be embraced, loved and accepted," Smith said, "but unfortunately that’s not the experience of all students.”

Grall, trying for a third consecutive year to pass the bill, has repeatedly dismissed the concerns. Any unintended consequences, she has said, could be addressed later by the Legislature.

Discussion during the Indian River County Commissioners meeting as commissioners listen to the public before making a decision on a proposed mandatory mask mandate on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Vero Beach. The commissioners voted 3-2 against the requirement, over concerns of confrontations between the mask wearers and those choosing not to comply. (Photo: ERIC HASERT/TCPALM)


At last, farm bill positioned for passage in House, Senate

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives is expected to pass a five-year farm bill on Wednesday after two years of delay and ongoing debate about its key provisions.

House leaders of both parties have signaled their support for the 949-page bill, which governs a huge swath of agricultural policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.

“In this climate, that’s a good sign,” said Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who represents Minnesota’s rural First Congressional District. “There will be fewer defections from the Republican side than people think and fewer from the Democratic side.”

The Senate is expected to approve the bill soon after the House. So an approved bill could be in place as soon as late Wednesday or Thursday, depending on procedural steps in both chambers.

But in an often bitterly divided Congress, nothing is guaranteed.

The House voted down a different farm bill in July when Tea Party Republicans and hard-line progressives teamed up unexpectedly to tank a compromise measure that would have cut food stamps by $20 billion over five years. The right wing thought the cuts were too little the left thought they were too much.

The $8.6 billion in food stamp cuts now on the table are dramatically less than what the House rejected over the summer, but they are double what the Senate proposed in a farm bill it passed last year.

Also up for consideration is a plan to replace $40 billion in crop subsidies with less expensive crop insurance and price protection programs. The controversial sugar price subsidy program considered vital to Minnesota’s sugar beet industry remains intact, and nothing was added to the bill to overturn controversial regulatory requirements that force meatpackers and processors to tell consumers where the animals used in their products were born, raised and slaughtered.

Despite continued areas of disagreement, Walz, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House-Senate conference committee that carved out the current farm bill, believes a spirit of compromise will prevail this time.

Americans, he said, have run out of patience with a “my way or the highway” approach to governing.

Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and one of leaders of the conference committee, also believes the House will pass the bill.

The positive feedback the House got for passing a bipartisan budget deal recently helped, Peterson said.

“The other thing helping is that people just want to get this over with,” he added. “People are ready to quit fighting.”

The process has been so grueling and frustrating that Peterson, the senior member of the Minnesota delegation, said he is considering retiring. “It’s just been an unrelenting nightmare,” he said.

Peterson said he has made no decision about leaving office and felt the same exhaustion after leading the battle to pass a farm bill in 2008.

He said he will take a few weeks to see whether things calm down and his spirits brighten.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, an Agriculture Committee member who also served on the farm bill conference committee, was upbeat. The bill that emerged has debt reduction, as well as conservation measures, crop protection, research funding and workable food stamp cuts, she said. It serves a broad enough cross-section of interests that it is difficult to see a way for it to fail, she said.

If the farm bill passes the House, Klobuchar said, “it’s as good as done” in the Senate, which has passed similar legislation twice.

Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota endorsed the conference committee bill Tuesday and called for its quick passage.

Rep. Betty McCollum, one of the House’s more liberal Democrats, announced plans to vote for the farm bill midafternoon on Tuesday.

“This bill represents a bipartisan compromise at a time when Congress rarely compromises,” McCollum said in a statement.

Other members of the delegation did not respond to a request for comment on how they intended to vote.

The $8.6 billion in food stamp cuts will not affect Minnesota. All of the savings come from closing a loophole in which people could qualify for benefits if they received money from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Minnesota does not use the program to place residents on food stamps.

Washington correspondent Jim Spencer examines the impact of federal politics and policy on Minnesota businesses, especially the medical technology, food distribution, farming, manufacturing, retail and health insurance industries.


House passes immigration bills for farm workers, 'Dreamers'

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has voted to unlatch a gateway to citizenship for young “Dreamers,” migrant farm workers and immigrants who have fled war or natural disasters, giving Democrats wins in the year’s first votes on an issue that faces an uphill climb in the Senate.

On a near party-line 228-197 vote Thursday, lawmakers approved one bill offering legal status to around 2 million “Dreamers,” brought to the U.S. illegally as children, and hundreds of thousands of migrants admitted for humanitarian reasons from a dozen troubled countries.

They then voted 247-174 for a second measure creating similar protections for 1 million farm workers who have worked in the U.S. illegally. The government estimates they comprise half the nation's agricultural laborers.

In a statement after the votes, President Joe Biden called the action a “critical first step” toward a more sweeping overhaul he's proposed. He said he wants to work with Congress toward “building a 21st century immigration system that is grounded in dignity, safety, and fairness, and finally enacts the long term solutions we need to create an orderly and humane immigration system."

Both bills largely hit a wall of opposition from Republicans insistent that any immigration legislation bolster security at the Mexican border, which waves of migrants have tried breaching in recent weeks. The GOP has accused congressional Democrats of ignoring that problem and Biden of fueling it by erasing former President Donald Trump's restrictive policies, even though that surge began while Trump was still in office.

While “Dreamers” win wide public support and migrant farm workers are a backbone of the agriculture industry, both House bills face gloomy prospects in the evenly split Senate. That chamber's 50 Democrats will need at least 10 GOP supporters to break Republican filibusters.

The outlook was even grimmer for Biden's more ambitious goal of legislation making citizenship possible for all 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally, easing visa restrictions, improving border security technology and spending billions in Central America to ease problems that prompt people to leave.

Nine House Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for the “Dreamers” measure, but 30 GOP lawmakers backed the farm workers bill, giving it a more bipartisan hue.

Congress has long deadlocked over immigration, which again seems headed toward becoming political ammunition. Republicans could use it to rally conservative voters in upcoming elections, while Democrats could add it to a stack of House-passed measures languishing in the Senate to build support for abolishing that chamber's bill-killing filibusters.

Democrats said their measures were aimed not at border security but at immigrants who deserve help.

“They're so much of our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said of “Dreamers,” who like many immigrants have held front-line jobs during the pandemic. “These immigrant communities strengthen, enrich and ennoble our nation, and they must be allowed to stay.”

Neither House measure would directly affect those trying to enter from Mexico. Republicans criticized them anyway for lacking border security provisions and used the debate to lambaste Biden, who's ridden a wave of popularity since taking office and winning a massive COVID-19 relief package.

“It is a Biden border crisis, and it is spinning out of control,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

While the number of migrants caught trying to cross the border from Mexico has been rising since last April, the 100,441 encountered last month was the highest figure since March 2019. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said the number is tracking toward a 20-year high.

In another measure of the problem, around 14,000 children and teens are in Customs and Border Protection custody or Health and Human Services Department shelters while officials find relatives or sponsors to take them, Biden administration officials told reporters.

Democrats were making that problem worse, Republicans said, with bills they said entice more immigrants to sneak into the U.S. and provide amnesty to immigrants who break laws to get here.

“We don't know who these people are. We don't know what their intentions are,” Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., said of immigrant farm workers who might seek legal status. He added, “It's frightening, it's irresponsible, it's endangering American lives."

During earlier debate on the “Dreamers” bill, Democrats said Republicans were going too far.

“Sometimes I stand in this chamber, and I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone, listening to a number of my Republican colleagues espouse white supremacist ideology to denigrate our ‘Dreamers,’” said Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y.

Maine Rep. Jared Golden's vote against the farm workers measure made him the only Democrat to oppose either bill.

The House approved “Dreamer” and farm worker bills in 2019 by similar partisan margins, and both died in what was a Republican-run Senate. Trump, who as president constricted legal and illegal immigration, would have signed neither.

Biden has suspended work on Trump’s wall along the Mexican border, ended his separation of young children from migrant families and allowed apprehended minors to stay in the U.S. as officials decide if they can legally remain. He has also turned away most single adults and families.

The “Dreamers” bill would grant conditional legal status for 10 years to many immigrants up to age 18 who were brought into the U.S. illegally before this year. They'd have to meet education and other requirements. “Dreamers” get their name from never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.

To attain legal permanent residence, or a green card, they'd have to obtain a higher education degree, serve in the military or be employed for at least three years. Like others with green cards, they could then apply for citizenship after five years.

The measure would also grant green cards to an estimated 400,000 immigrants with temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure status, which temporarily allow people fleeing extraordinary problems into the U.S.

The other bill would let immigrant farm workers who've worked in the country illegally over the past two years get certified agriculture worker status. That would let them, their spouses and children remain in the U.S. for renewable 5 1/2-year periods.

To earn green cards, they'd have to pay a $1,000 fine and work up to an additional eight years, depending on how long they've already held farm jobs.

The legislation would cap wage increases, streamline the H-2A visa process for legal immigrant farm workers and phase in a mandatory system for electronically verifying the legal status of agriculture laborers.


House farm bill vote done, Senate plans cloture vote

Hours after the House narrowly voted to pass the farm bill on June 21, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came to the floor and said that 17 senators had signed a cloture motion to move forward with H.R. 2, “an act to provide for the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023 and for other purposes.”

The cloture vote on the Senate version of the farm bill will be held about 6 p.m. on June 25.

The cloture motion sets the stage for the Senate to consider the farm bill in advance of the July 4 recess, as McConnell promised at the Senate Agriculture Committee farm bill markup.

There have been rumors that Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who is demanding a vote on a payment limits measure, had placed a hold on the bill. But a Grassley spokesman said he had not.

“Sen. Grassley didn’t put a hold on the farm bill,” the spokesman said. “If he did, it would be public on the Senate calendar.”

The House vote was a cliffhanger, and there promises to be more drama as the Senate takes up its bill, and even more if the Senate passes it and the two bills go to conference.

The House passed its version of H.R. 2 by a vote of 213 to 211 on a revote after the bill failed in May. The bill passed because 10 more Republicans, mostly members of the House Freedom Caucus, voted for it than in May, but 20 Republicans still joined Democrats to vote against it.

Four House members did not vote — Republicans Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Democrats Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey.

An aide to Aderholt, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, said Aderholt intended to vote but was in another meeting and the vote was gaveled down before Aderholt could get to the chamber.

After the House vote, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., congratulated House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and said he looks forward to a conference on the two bills.

If the Senate bill passes, the most difficult issue in conference is expected to be the differences between the two bills over changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“We will have stronger work requirements in the conference report than I guess what might be in the Senate bill,” Conaway told reporters after the vote, Politico said.

But when asked if he wanted President Donald Trump to weigh in on the SNAP debate, Conaway said, “I don’t want to do anything at this stage that makes Pat’s job harder. I would love for our bill to be passed by the Senate and sent to the president, but that’s not the rational way to think about it.”

But Trump tweeted, “Farm bill just passed in the House. So happy to see work requirements included. Big win for the farmers!”

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., repeated his pledge to support the Senate bill in conference.

“The partisan approach of the majority has produced a bill that simply doesn’t do enough for the people it’s supposed to serve,” Peterson said in a press release.

“It still leaves farmers and ranchers vulnerable, it worsens hunger and it fails rural communities. The only upside to its passage is that we’re one step closer to conference, where it’s my hope that cooler heads can and will prevail. The Senate’s version isn’t perfect, but it avoids the hardline partisan approach that House Republicans have taken here today, and if it passes, I look forward to working with conferees to produce a conference report both parties can support, which is the only way to get a farm bill enacted into law.” ❖

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House passes Ag workforce bill

The House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act today, March 19, by a vote to 247 to 174.

Thirty Republicans joined 217 Democrats in voting for the bill, which would provide a path for legal status for farmworkers who are in the United States without legal documents.

Earlier the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act, a bill that would allow the young people known as “Dreamers” who entered the United States as children without legal status to stay in the country. The vote was 228 to 197.

After the passage of the bills, President Biden endorsed both.

Of the farmworkers bill, Biden said, “Farmworkers are vital to the wellbeing of our country and our economy.”

“For generations, America’s farmworkers — many of whom are undocumented — have worked countless hours to feed our nation and ensure our communities are healthy and strong. This has been even more clear and crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, as farmworkers have put their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line to ensure that families across the country have food on the table.

“This is why I support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 and celebrate its passage. The act will deliver the lawful status and better working conditions that this critical workforce deserves, as well as much needed stability for farmers, growers, and the entire agriculture industry.

“My administration is ready to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle to address the needs of our essential workers, bring greater dignity and security to our agricultural sector, and finally enact the long-term solutions we need to create a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system, in addition to tackling the root causes of migration to the United States.”

One Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, did not vote for the bill. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., was among the eight Republican members who did not vote.

House Judiciary Immigration and Citizenship Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a primary sponsor of the ag workforce bill, said, “The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation.”

“But many of them do so while living and working in a state of uncertainty and fear, which has only been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stabilizing the workforce will protect the future of our farms and our food supply.

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act accomplishes this by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers and updating and streamlining the H-2A temporary worker visa program while ensuring fair wages and working conditions for all workers. I look forward to working with senators on both sides of the aisle to get this bipartisan legislation that serves the best interests of our country to the president’s desk.”

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., Lofgren’s co-sponsor, said, “In the first two and a half months of 2021, illegal immigration has reached a crisis point. In order to maintain the rule of law and keep criminals out of our country, Congress must continue working to enhance our border security.”

“One way to enhance our border security is the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which is the bipartisan, targeted labor solution our agriculture industry needs,” Newhouse said.

“By creating a viable and desperately-needed agriculture labor program, we are removing opportunities to work illegally in the United States, strengthening our border security, and ensuring we have a reliable, legal workforce for our farms and ranches for years to come. Today’s passage marks an important step forward for farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get it to the president’s desk and deliver historic and meaningful reforms for American agriculture.”

House Agriculture Committee Chair David Scott, D-Ga., said, “A stable supply of labor is essential to our U.S. agriculture industry thriving in the face of ongoing competition. I will be a passionate voice for a workable resolution to a problem that for too long has been ignored.”

“I want to thank Chair Lofgren and Rep. Newhouse for their leadership on this bipartisan compromise bill, and I will continue to work with them and our stakeholders as we engage our Senate colleagues to make improvements to this needed legislation,” Scott said.Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., the second highest ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee in seniority, praised the passage of both the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

Earlier in the day, Costa, the descendant of Portuguese farmers in the Central Valley of California, participated in a news conference with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to promote passage of the bill.

During that news conference Costa noted that his grandparents came to the United States as immigrants who milked cows, and that as a child he worked “side by side” with farmworkers on his family’s farm in the San Joaquin Valley.

The day would be “a good day for immigration reform,” Costa said. “Food is a national security issue, we often take it for granted.”

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have come to understand the importance of food and the importance of farm workers, he added.

It is ”simply wrong” for farm workers to work “under the shadow of the fear of deportation” and to fear family separation, Costa added.

After the bill passed, Costa said he wanted to commend Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Lofgren on their leadership in getting the pieces of legislation to the floor.

“Providing a path to legal status to farm workers for the betterment of our country is long overdue,” Costa said.

“American agriculture needs a reliable legal workforce and farm workers deserve to be treated as the essential workers they are. Farmers and farm workers provide a vital and essential partnership that puts food on America’s dinner tables every night. Therefore, the food we eat is a national security issue. This legislation, if passed, would ensure the reliability of America’s food supply remains secured.”

Ruiz said Costa played “an instrumental role in drafting and passing the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Congressman Costa is a champion for farmworker communities and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus applauds his leadership and dedication.”

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said “In our one-on-one and direct conversations with me, Central Virginia farms, agribusinesses, and greenhouses have been clear that the existing H-2A program is in fundamental need of reforms. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act provides much-needed changes to our immigration system, including the H-2A program.”

United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero said, “Farm workers’ hard work has earned them the right to a stable future in the United States. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act honors the professionalism of those who feed the entire nation and much of the world. It is the result of thoughtful compromise among bipartisan lawmakers, agricultural employers and farm workers.”

“Today’s votes are the direct result of decades of determination by farm workers and undocumented youth fighting for their right to keep their homes in the United States,” added UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres.

“This is an opportunity for the nation to acknowledge that farm workers have always been essential, putting food on the tables of Americans even during a pandemic. This is the year to get it done.”

During a news conference after the vote, Arturo Rodriguez, the former UFW president who negotiated many of the provisions, noted that many farm workers are regular farm employees and less migratory than in the past.National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner said, “Today’s bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives to pass H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, is a critical step towards achieving many of the long-standing immigration reform goals of NCFC and others in agriculture.”

“With the House’s action today, I strongly urge the Senate to take up, without delay, similar legislation that addresses the labor crisis hitting farmers across the country.

“While NCFC and its members have concerns with some provisions of the FWMA, the bill provides an excellent starting point for the Senate to begin work on the issue. We look forward to working with the Senate to ensure that their legislation achieves our key objectives: addressing both the current and future needs of agricultural employers ensuring that programs work for all types of producers and providing certainty for both farmers and farmworkers moving forward.”

National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Barb Glenn said, “Systems that establish a secure, reliable workforce for the agriculture, food and natural resource industries are necessary to our food supply.”

“An estimated half of the U.S. agricultural workforce is foreign-born, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act will provide opportunities for these individuals to contribute to the U.S. agricultural economy and earn legal status through continued agricultural employment,” Glenn said.

The bill would make year-round H-2A visas available for the first time, an action that would be transformational for agricultural operations like dairies that currently rely only on temporary labor, Glenn noted.

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said, “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a mutually beneficial solution that will create a more functional and compassionate farm labor system.”

“For agricultural employers, it will streamline and allow for greater flexibility in the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program, making it simpler to find and hire qualified employees,” Larew said. “For workers, it will strengthen protections as well as establish a route to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment. Given its advantages for both parties, we welcome this practical piece of legislation and advise the Senate to quickly follow the House’s lead by taking up the important issue of farm labor reform.”

United Fresh Produce Association President Tom Stenzel said, “Today, the House of Representatives took an important step towards reforming our agricultural labor system by passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.”

“The legislation will stabilize our current workforce and make improvements to ensure that a future workforce is available to meet the growing needs of the fresh produce industry,” Stenzel said. “Now our efforts turn to the Senate where we will work to further improve the bill and garner similar bipartisan support for this legislation.”

Stenzel noted that 350 members of United Fresh had sent letters to Congress supporting the bill.

Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia said, “Today’s vote reconfirms the reality that well-crafted and durable legislation requires the input of thoughtful and pragmatic lawmakers from both parties.”

“We thank the House members who led this effort and all who voted in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act,” Puglia said. “Next, we urge senators of both parties to begin their consideration of this legislation in a similar construct, guided by a desire to produce legislation negotiated with both agriculture and labor advocates and supported by senators of both parties.

“The need for a solution to agriculture’s labor crisis has been widely accepted across party lines. Furthermore, the remedy, which addresses both the existing workforce and the future flow of workers, has been negotiated in painstaking detail and agreed to by advocates representing farmers and farmworkers alike.

“The Senate never took up this legislation after it passed the House in 2019 and the problem has predictably worsened. Americans want to see Congress work on real problems and real solutions and spend less time in ideological conflict. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act affords the Senate a powerful opportunity to meet that expectation.”

The dairy industry is not as pleased with the bill, but issued supportive comments.

National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said, “Today’s bipartisan passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the House of Representatives provides crucial momentum toward addressing dairy’s ongoing workforce crisis, which has only intensified during the COVID pandemic.”

“Nothing gets done if we cannot move forward. The broad industry and bipartisan support for passing FWMA in the House demonstrates the acute need for ag labor reform this Congress and illustrates that consensus can be achieved.

“On that note, more work will need to be done for ag labor solutions to become law. NMPF will continue its bipartisan efforts in Congress and calls on the Senate to enact its own ag labor reform measure that gives dairy reliable access to the workforce farmers and farmworkers need to nourish the nation and the world,” Mulhern said.

International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes added, “Among its many important provisions, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would create a new year-round visa program and appropriately addresses dairy’s labor needs.”

“America’s dairy industry produces the safest, most nutritious, and most affordable variety of dairy products to consumers around the world, but without a reliable, predictable guestworker program to ensure legal labor remains available, our industry cannot obtain and process enough milk to meet global demand,” Dykes said.

The California Farm Bureau Federation said it was pleased to see the bill advance and that it will work with California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, both Democrats, “to seek refinements to the bill’s guestworker provisions before a Senate vote.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation did not make a statement on the bill.

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Senate overwhelmingly passes sweeping farm bill, setting up fight with House

The Senate passed its version of the $428 billion farm bill Thursday, setting up a bitter fight against the House over food stamps, farm subsidies and conservation funding.

The Senate measure passed in an 86-to-11 vote, overwhelming support that reflected a bipartisan desire to rush relief to farmers confronting low prices for their products and an array of other troubles. But the bill faces challenges when lawmakers meet later this summer to reconcile gaping differences between the House and Senate bills.

The House version of the legislation, passed narrowly last week with no Democratic support, imposes strict new work requirements on able-bodied adults seeking food stamps. The Senate version, which needed Democratic votes to pass, does not include major changes to food stamps.

Key senators have said they would not support a final bill containing work requirements, even though that policy is backed by the White House, because it would jeopardize the bipartisan support the legislation needs to pass. The Senate farm bill also preserves a major conservation program gutted in the House bill, as well as a separate provision, unpopular in the House, that would limit farm-subsidy payments.

With House Republicans insisting they will fight for their version of the legislation, the discrepancies have fueled fears Congress will not be able to pass a new farm bill before the current law expires Sept. 30. That could cause major disruptions in some programs, unless lawmakers extend the currentlegislation or appropriate separate funds.

With farmers already struggling with low commodity prices and market jitters over President Trump’s tariffs, farm-state senators of both parties stressed ahead of Thursday’s vote that the legislation’s passage was crucial.

“I don’t know how I can emphasize this more strongly, but I hope my colleagues will understand that the responsibility, the absolute requirement, is to provide farmers, ranchers, growers — everyone within America’s food chain — certainty and predictability during these very difficult times that we’re experiencing,” Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said on the Senate floor.

“This is not the best possible bill. It’s the best bill possible. And we’ve worked very hard to produce that,” he added.

Farm income has dropped in each of the past four years as commodity prices have fallen. Slightly more than half of all farms now lose money each year, according to the Agriculture Department — a predicament that is expected to worsen as the Federal Reserve raises loan interest rates and trade tensions threaten export markets.

“There is a sense of urgency in the country. There are so many things right now that are up in the air for farmers and ranchers. It’s a very, very difficult time,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), the top Agriculture Committee Democrat. “And this bill really is a bill that provides a safety net for farmers and a safety net for families.”

A massive legislative package that oversees a range of farming, conservation and nutrition programs, the farm bill is reauthorized every five years — generally on a bipartisan basis. Separate bills work their way through the House and Senate before lawmakers reconcile them in conference. The compromise bill must then pass each chamber again before heading to the president’s desk.

This year bipartisan negotiations fell apart in the House as Republicans embraced food stamp work requirements that are bitterly opposed by Democrats. The House farm bill also became briefly ensnared in an unrelated legislative brawl over immigration, which caused it to fail on the first try before barely passing when it was brought back up last week.

Under the controversial House food stamp plan, most adults would have to spend 20 hours per week either working or participating in a state-run training program to receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, which provides an average payment of $125 per month to 42.3 million Americans. While both the White House and House Republicans have pitched the plan as an inventive way to get people back to work, House Democrats and senators in both parties have vowed to vote against a plan some say will unfairly increase red tape for low-income Americans.

An attempt by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), John Kennedy (La.) and Mike Lee (Utah) to add tougher food stamp language to the Senate version of the bill failed Thursday as 68 senators voted to table their amendment while only 30 supported it.

“The things that they have in there are mostly to hassle people that are on SNAP. That’s really what it’s about,” Rep. Collin C. Peterson (Minn.), top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said Thursday of the food stamp provisions in the House bill. “Like I told people, the only thing that’s going to work that’s going to be developed out of this farm bill is paperwork.”

But House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) said he would defend the provisions during conference committee negotiations, arguing it would be bad politics in an election year for lawmakers to oppose changes aimed at moving people into the workforce.

“I do expect that having this conversation with the American people just ahead of the election that says if you’re work-capable, 18 to 59, and you want SNAP — and you’re not mentally or physically disabled, you’re not a caregiver of a young child — that you just split the program by working 20 hours a week and/or participating in an education training program that gets you there. That’s a winning argument across every demographic in this country,” Conaway said. “If our colleagues are that far out of step with what their voters are telling them just before the election, then they may be doing that at their own peril.”


Farm bill fails in U.S. House as immigration debate ties up Republican Party

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives rejected a sweeping $867 billion farm bill on Friday after Republican leaders failed to appease conservative lawmakers who had asked them not to hold the vote until they were given the chance to consider a bill to clamp down on immigration.

The next steps are unclear for the farm bill, which failed in a 198-to-213 vote.

The farm bill's passage through the House has been entangled in the debate over immigration, as the conservative House Freedom Caucus sought to pre-empt a move by moderate Republicans and Democrats to use procedural tactics to force a wide-ranging immigration debate on the House floor.

Freedom Caucus lawmakers warned Republican leaders on Thursday that they should delay the farm bill vote until they were given the chance to debate and vote on a conservative immigration bill.

The farm bill's failure is an embarrassment for House Republican leaders. They are trying to stave off the broader immigration debate sought by moderates, which would include a vote on a bipartisan bill that falls well short of demands from conservative Republicans and President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy were seen on the floor of the chamber negotiating with Freedom Caucus lawmakers as the farm bill vote was underway.

'This is all the more disappointing because we offered the vote these members were looking for, but they still chose to take the bill down,” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres said of the Freedom Caucus' immigration demand.

But Representative Mark Meadows, head of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters that leadership had offered them a vote on the conservative immigration bill months ago and that their latest offers had not been 'fully clear.”

'Unfortunately too many of our members have been left standing at the altar too many times with those kinds of promises,” said Representative Scott Perry, a Freedom Caucus member.

Meadows told reporters after the vote that the farm bill's failure was likely temporary. 'It's not a fatal blow, it's just a reorganize,” he said.

Representative Dennis Ross, a member of Republican whip team, said he thought the farm bill would be back on the House floor next week.

But, while some of the Freedom Caucus' roughly 30 members voted against the farm bill over their immigration demand, a handful of moderate Republicans also joined Democrats to oppose the bill. The moderates disliked changes it would make to a food stamps program used by about 40 million Americans, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The farm bill, as written by House Agriculture Committee Republicans, would impose stricter work requirements on millions of food stamp recipients.

Democrats were adamantly opposed to those requirements, and said if they are changed now, a bipartisan farm bill would be possible.

'If they will listen to me, I can deliver a lot of Democrats for this bill,” said Representative Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.

Even if the House passes a farm bill with the food stamp work requirements in place, they are unlikely to end up in a version being written by the Senate's agriculture committee. Senate leaders have said the House SNAP proposals could not pass that chamber, where Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority and passing most legislation requires 60 votes.


Farm Bill Passes in the Senate, Awaits the House - Recipes

The National Potato Council (NPC), which represents America’s $4.5 billion potato industry, welcomed the March 18 bipartisan 247-174 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

The bill — sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington) and cosponsored by 23 members, including House Agriculture Chairman David Scott (D-Georgia) and Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Fred Upton (R-Michigan), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida), Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia) — is backed by agricultural groups and companies focused on addressing the agriculture workforce crisis.

“Yesterday’s bipartisan passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act sends a strong message that the time to address agricultural labor reform is now,” said RJ Andrus, NPC’s Vice President of Legislative Affairs. “Last Congress, NPC and our partners throughout the agricultural industry were disheartened when the Senate was unable to move forward on ag labor reform. We are now focused on keeping the up momentum and are grateful that Senators Crapo and Bennet have committed to working together to introduce a bill in the Senate to ensure growers and workers are provided long-term certainty, security, and competitiveness.”

The legislation, which passed the House in 2019 but was not taken up by the Senate, would address the agriculture workforce crisis by establishing effective border security, a path to legal work status for undocumented agricultural workers, and sustainable guest worker programs to fulfill the ongoing needs of America’s agriculture industry. After the March 18 House passage, Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) announced they would work together to introduce a companion bill that would benefit both the agriculture industry and the farmworkers that support it.

“We appreciate Representatives Lofgren and Newhouse for reaching across party lines to once again pass a bipartisan bill designed to benefit both growers and laborers,” said NPC CEO Kam Quarles. “As the bill moves to the Senate, we will continue to work with Senators Bennet and Crapo to improve the measure and enact long-term labor solutions that support the health of family farmers and all those working in the potato industry.”

In the Senate, NPC plans to advocate for improvements to the bill including addressing the unpredictable wage rate for employers taking part in the agricultural guest worker program (H-2A). Additionally, the group will work to ensure the current H-2A program remains uncapped, to allow the labor force to expand and contract based upon agriculture’s production needs.

United Fresh reaction

United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel: “The House of Representatives took an important step towards reforming our agricultural labor system by passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H. R. 1603) by a vote of 247 to 174. The legislation will stabilize our current workforce and make improvements to ensure that a future workforce is available to meet the growing needs of the fresh produce industry.

“The strong support for this measure would not have been possible without the leadership of Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-Washington). Their efforts, aided by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, made today’s passage of the bill possible. Now our efforts turn to the Senate where we will work to further improve the bill and garner similar bipartisan support for this legislation.”

On March 17, 350 United Fresh members sent a joint letter to the House leadership encouraging passage of this legislatio n that defends our current workforce and expands opportunities for foreign workers, while ensuring that American workers will always have the first opportunity to fill the needs of farmers. This letter complements an agriculture industry letter sent earlier this week to Capitol Hill.


Bill to aid family farmers passes Senate, House

PUBLISHED ON August 5, 2019

WASHINGTON — Before adjourning for the August in-district work period, the U.S. Senate passed Rep. Antonio Delgado (NY-19)’s bipartisan legislation to ease the process of reorganizing debt through Chapter 12 bankruptcy rules to assist farmers during this down farm economy. The legislation now awaits President Trump’s signature. Rep. Delgado introduced H.R. 2336, the Family Farmer Relief Act in April along with House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Reps. TJ Cox (D-CA), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD). The House passed H.R. 2336 on July 26, following Rep. Delgado’s testimony on the floor.

“Farming in Upstate New York is a way of life and the current down turn in the farm economy threatens this time-honored tradition for thousands of family farms in our district. I am so pleased to see the Senate vote to pass the Family Farmer Relief Act which will bring relief to struggling family farmers and allow them the flexibility to continue operations.” Delgado continued, “This legislation was a bipartisan, cooperative effort from the beginning and I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining me to champion this important cause. I urge President Trump to sign this vital legislation soon so we can bring family farmers in Upstate New York much needed relief.”

“Our family farmers across Upstate New York are some of the most competitive and hardest working anywhere in the world but have been taking a beating in recent years, with dairy farmers specifically challenged by shockingly low milk prices and grappling with manipulative and unfair trade practices. Passing this sorely-needed legislation was a critical step towards providing them with the relief they need and deserve,” said Senator Schumer. “I’m proud of the role I played getting the bill to the Senate floor and passing the Family Farmer Relief Act in the Senate, because with Upstate family farms facing unprecedented difficulties, it couldn’t be more important to give them the tools and resources they need to stay afloat. I’ll always fight tooth and nail to protect the essential Upstate NY family farming industry from unwarranted and unnecessary harm.”

“For family farms whose assets are largely tied up in land and essential equipment, reorganizing debts can be particularly challenging when falling on hard times. As low commodity prices force farmers to take on more debt, this bill guarantees a safety net is in place for more farmers who need help getting back on their feet. By providing relief to these small-to-mid-size farms, we can ensure more successful reorganizations, which will be beneficial for everyone involved in the supply chain, while avoiding mass liquidations and further consolidation in the largest sectors of the industry,” Senator Grassley said.

The Family Farmer Relief Act was introduced with a Senate companion led by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Doug Jones (D-AL), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Tina Smith (D-MN). The bill expands the debt cap that can be covered under Chapter 12 bankruptcy from $3,237,000 to $10,000,000. The changes reflect the increase in land values, as well as the growth over time in the average size of U.S. farming operations and are meant to provide farmers additional options to manage keep their doors open during downturns in the farm economy. The legislation is endorsed by: American Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, and American Bankruptcy Institute.

As a member of the Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Small Business Committees, Delgado has prioritized bringing the voices of small farmers to Washington and assure passage of the Family Farmer Relief Act. Rep. Delgado introduced H.R. 2336, the Family Farmer Relief Act in April, and in June, gave testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on his bill and the plight of small farms today. Following that hearing, the bill passed out of committee before being voted favorably out of the full House last week. Rep. Delgado then worked with Sen. Grassley (R-IA) and Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) to secure its passage in the Senate prior to a month-long work period when both senators and representatives return home. The bill now awaits the president’s signature.

The 19 th Congressional District is home to just under 5,000 farms and 96% of these farms are family-owned farms. The district represents the eighth most rural district in the country and the third most rural Democratic district. In his first seven months in office, Rep. Delgado has established and met with his Agriculture Advisory Committee, toured more than 20 farms, and sat down with local farmers across the district to hear about localized infrastructure, technology needs, and sustainable farming practices.


Watch the video: Farm bill passes (December 2021).