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Congress asked to address ag labor shortage through reconciliation bill

DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Thinkstock swine barn in Iowa in autumn_DarcyMaulsby_iStock_Thinkstock-464580998.jpg
Current visa programs don’t provide access to enough workers.

With a scheduled vote in the U.S. House set for Monday, the National Pork Producers Council called on Congress to include in a budget reconciliation bill language to expand the existing H-2A visa to year-round agricultural workers.

Like many sectors of the economy, the U.S. pork industry is faced with a severe labor shortage. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry was having trouble filling jobs, a situation generally attributable to urbanization and an aging rural population. The tight labor market prompted the pork sector to rely on foreign-born workers.

“The U.S. pork industry is highly dependent on foreign-born workers, but current visa programs don’t provide access to enough workers to meet our labor needs on farms and in packing plants,” said NPPC President Jen Sorenson. “We need a dedicated, year-round workforce."

“If the labor shortage is not addressed, it could lead to farms and plants shutting down, causing serious financial harm to the communities in which they operate,” Sorenson added. “Pork production would become constrained, leading to higher food prices for consumers and the United States becoming an unreliable trading partner.”

NPPC is urging congressional lawmakers to open the current H-2A temporary and seasonal worker visa program to year-round labor, without a limit on the annual number of visas, and to provide legal status for agricultural workers already in the country. Legislation approved earlier this year by the House would expand the H-2A program to year-round workers but cap the number of visas that can be issued each year.

In July, NPPC rolled out a campaign, “Year-Round Pork Needs Year-Round Workers,” to highlight the vital role foreign-born workers play in the U.S. pork industry and the critical need for comprehensive labor reform to address agriculture’s labor shortage.

 

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