Key lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are working to advance solutions to some of the most significant challenges floral industry professionals face in building a steady, reliable workforce.
House lawmakers today introduced a labor bill that “would provide a path to legalization for farm workers and expand the H-2A foreign guest-worker program,” as first reported by Politico.
The legislation, led by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), “isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s an important first step to what has long been an intractable issue,” said the Society of American Florists’ senior lobbyist, Joe Bischoff, Ph.D., of Cornerstone Government Affairs. “Many of the lawmakers at the table are people with whom SAF has long, positive relationships, which is very encouraging for the floral industry.”
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who have already been working in the agriculture industry for at least two years and plan to continue in their jobs, according to Politico. It would also establish a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for the agricultural sector, simplify the H-2A visa process, apply a cap to farm workers’ wages and increase funding for USDA housing programs for laborers.
The bill was introduced with the bipartisan support of 24 Democrats and 20 Republicans.
Bischoff noted that Jimmy Panetta (D-California) is among the lawmakers supporting the bill; both Panetta and Newhouse have been receptive to floral industry concerns and have met multiple times, in person or via staff, with SAF and its members to discuss the real-world implications of certain aspects of immigration reform, including the challenges of the E-Verify system and the realities of a needing a seasonal workforce.
“When we look at this bill, we have to remember as an industry that we can’t expect to get everything we want out of the gate,” Bischoff said. “But the movement we’re seeing is a positive sign and a significant step forward. Now it’s time for us to continue to hustle and work. Through our established relationships with lawmakers and our coalitions on Capitol Hill, we can continue to improve the bill, for the benefit of the industry.”
Look for more coverage in upcoming SAF publications.
Ready to do your part and make your voice heard? Register today for SAF’s annual Congressional Action Days, March 9-10 in Washington, D.C.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.