A new group of US representatives is working to bridge the labor gap in agriculture, but they have a lot of work ahead of them. North Carolina Democrat Congressman Don Davis is a co-chair of the new Ag Labor Working Group, and he says across the labor spectrum, there are plenty of jobs to go around.
As a matter of fact the Chamber shared some 9.8 million job openings are out there, and if every person that’s reporting being unemployed, they’re seeking work, that 5.9 million jobs today, and took unemployment to zero, there will still be millions of jobs that would be vacant. And that is the case in agriculture. as well.
Davis tells SFN the H2A program is antiquated and in need of modernization.
Policy was put in place in 1986 for that time, but when we flip the script now to 2023, just think about this. There’s another 91 million people that we’ve now have the obligation of feeding and clothing just in America alone.
Davis recognizes that many people connect the labor and immigration issues in their minds, but he says the two must be dealt with separately.
We wanted to have a conversation here that focuses specifically on H2A and not get into the broader immigration issue, because we understand the political dynamics of that, but let’s see how then we could actually focus on H2A and make some meaningful reforms that are just practical, bipartisan. I mean, things that are common sense. You have to help connect farmers, you know, to workers and close this gap that we know that already exists.
Right now, the group is taking a lot of notes.
We’re really bringing in the stakeholders, listening to the stakeholders to hear their perspectives, farmers, listening to farm workers, labor contractors, growers’ associations and farm labor organizers, you know bringing the community together and really weighing into this topic. I would really love to see that process take his course before entirely drawing any conclusions.
Davis hopes the Ag Labor Working Group can collaborate across the aisle and the nation.
You know, we have members that are elected from across the country. But I would hope at the end of the day that we can increase the awareness and consciousness around the importance of agriculture, workforce development, and labor, these issues within the ag community.