The Senate is expected this week to address the labor emergency affecting dairy farms and other agricultural employers by considering a measure allowing experienced workers to remain with their employers for up to five years.
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a war-spending bill containing as an amendment the Emergency Agriculture Relief Act, sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Larry Craig (R-ID). The EARA would grant temporary worker status to more than one million agricultural employees for up to five years. It would not grant them citizenship, but would allow those with a recent history of farm employment to remain in their jobs without fear of deportation.
“We appreciate the leadership demonstrated by the Appropriations Committee members on one of the most challenging public policy issues facing America,” says Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation.
NMPF has worked hard over the past two years to enact sensible reforms that ensure that dairy farms have continued access to immigrant labor, he says. “We’re glad the Senate Appropriations Committee has recognized that the EARA offers a practical, albeit short-term, solution to the endemic labor challenges facing farm employers and farm workers.”
“Dairy farmers, their families and their communities are expecting the Senate to do the right thing on this critical issues,” Kozak says, adding that at a time of rising food costs, along with escalating input costs on farms, “we cannot afford to ignore the critical issue of labor availability.”
Too many farms are at risk because of all of the financial pressures they face, he continues. “Cows need to be milked and food needs to be harvested. The EARA represents our best opportunity to take a necessary step toward ensuring that farms can continue to operate until a longer-term policy can be enacted.”