The California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) are counting the results of the House farm bill and immigration bill votes as wins for California agriculture. The House farm bill passed by the narrow margin of 213-211 on Thursday, June 21, with very little change to the bill since it was first voted down in May. The immigration bill known as the “AG Act” that had been introduced by Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia was defeated earlier in the day by a vote of 193-231.
“There’s really a lot in here for farmers and ranchers to be happy with in California,” CFBF Manager of Federal Policy Josh Rolph said of the House farm bill. “This is something that from the program crop perspective, our cotton, rice, wheat, corn growers, they seem fairly satisfied with the continuation of the ARC and PLC program and the little tweaks to crop insurance. And then for the specialty crop growers, there’s a lot in there that we were worried might be taken out and it’s still there.”
Getting the bill passed depended on votes from the House Freedom Caucus, with members noting they would not support the bill without first addressing immigration. That stance was what ultimately kept the House farm bill from passing the first time. Prior to the farm bill vote, the House voted down the AG Act which would have replaced the H-2A program with what would be called the H-2C program. The bill also would have required guest workers to return to their country of origin for a period of time and would have mandated the use of the E-verify system.
“They want them to go back and the return to the United States and we think that that’s just not a viable, or reasonable solution to the problem,” said CFBF Director of Employment Policy Bryan Little. Besides the logistics of guest workers being forced to go back and forth, there was also an issue with what that would mean for the guest workers themselves. “Some of them haven’t been to their home country in 15 or 20 years and they might not have any family left there,” Little said.
The mandated use of the E-verify program and what that would do to the labor pool was also a substantial concern. “Even though we now have significant shortages of workers, at least we have some workers. If we have E-verify, we’re going to have significantly less workers than we have now,” said Little.
The passage of the House farm bill and immigration bill defeat is being considered as a double-win by CFBF. There is still significant work to be done before a farm bill is officially adopted and a reasonable answer for immigration concerns will be provided, but CFBF believes that the process is moving in the right direction.