Blue Card Bill ‘A Step In A Direction’

Dan Labor and Immigration

Douglass and Wolfe discussing issues at AgSafe’s 2019 Annual Conference.

The proposed Agricultural Worker Program Act will not fix agricultural labor issues in California, but it is a sign of progress. H.R. 641, also known as the ‘Blue Card’ bill, is proposed legislation that allows farmworkers who have at least 100 days of agricultural labor in the past two years to apply for a card that will allow them to work legally in the United States. AgSafe CEO Amy Wolfe said this isn’t an end-all answer to labor issues for the industry but it is progress that doesn’t include rules that would exacerbate those issues, “from a big picture perspective, absolutely.”

California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) was at AgSafe’s annual conference and Wolfe discussed the issue with attendees. “First Vice President Shannon Douglass shared with the audience and that California Farm Bureau is just happy to see a step in a direction,” Wolfe noted. “Shannon also said that this January, it sounds like California Farm Bureau leadership was able to have some meaningful momentum with the American Farm Bureau (AFBF) and they have adopted policy language that is in support of the general concept we see in this legislation.”

That should be viewed as good news to California considering CFBF and AFBF have not been on the same page when it comes to immigration labor reform. The recently debated and failed bill from Republican Bob Goodlatte, which was supported by AFBF, had several issues not conducive to California’s environment. Many groups opposed the ‘check-back’ rule requiring workers to return to their country of origin and the e-verify system.

Wolfe and Douglas discussed another issue with that bill that would have set caps on the number of workers, putting California in an awkward position. “It was definitely going to great some meaningful challenges not only for California but at that point; it almost becomes California versus the rest of the country,” Wolfe said. “We were talking about a cap of roughly 450,000 to 500,000 workers. Our state economic development department said at our peak that California was using 650,000 workers. Certainly, that number has curtailed in recent years…but we would still need more than that bill would have allowed for, nationwide.”

Blue Card Bill ‘A Step In A Direction’
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Taylor Hillman

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AgNet Media Operations Manager and Farm News Director for AgNet West.