Mar 24, 2021Blueberry growers cite good timing to help pass immigration reform
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603) was approved in the House last week with bipartisan support. The votes came just as growers and industry stakeholders from the North American Blueberry Council were participating in a virtual fly-in, sharing their positions on immigration and labor; the farm bill; COVID-19 relief programs; and trade; and seeking support for a resolution declaring July National Blueberry Month.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would modernize and expand the H-2A visa program and create a pathway to citizenship for America’s long-term undocumented agricultural workers who make up 50% of the country’s farm hands.
For the blueberry industry and agriculture in general, this would drive stability of access and costs associated with long-term competitiveness.
The the North American Blueberry Council’s (NABC) policy platform, shared with policy makers last week, seeks an H-2A program that is streamlined and simplified, and that remains uncapped. Reforms should reduce overall program cost, including modernizing the methodology for establishing wages. NABC’s platform also calls for reform that allows current experienced but unauthorized workers to earn and transition to legal status, with incentives to keep working in ag and protection for immediate family.
“We could not have timed our trip better,” said Pat Goin, who grows blueberries at Goin’s Blueberry Lane in Indiana, and is vice chair of the NABC and chair of its Legislative Committee. “We’ve been committed to pushing for this reform for years, and I was proud to see the impact we had and the important part we played in encouraging lawmakers to support us by passing this bill.”
“Our blueberry industry made a difference,” said Kasey Cronquist, NABC president.
“Members of Congress and their staff still had questions about this bill and the details involved, and our members were there to help guide good decision-making. This is what industry advocacy is all about.”The momentum and pressure to pass a reform package will now move to the Senate for debate and consideration before a final package can be delivered for President Joe Biden’s signature.