Senator Clinton Calls on Senate Leaders to Fix Agricultural Worker Situation Immediately
Says Congress must act to help New York farmers
Calls on Senate Majority and Minority Leaders to pass bipartisan AgJOBS Bill as soon as possible
Washington, DC - As the New York harvest season continues, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has written to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, stressing the urgent need to pass agricultural labor reform legislation. Senator Clinton noted that as the Senate prepares to recess without the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, a crisis is taking hold on New York's farms.
"Our farmers are facing a workforce crisis and action is urgently needed. We owe it to our farmers, workers and consumers to pass this essential agricultural worker reform so that we can safeguard New York's farms," Senator Clinton said, following the release of the letter.
In her letter to the two Senate leaders, Senator Clinton urged passage of the bipartisan Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act (AgJOBS), which would provide American farmers with the long overdue relief they need to secure an adequate workforce. The AgJOBS bill would not only expand the current H-2A program, it would also modernize its procedures, making it easier for American farmers to use. The legislation would also provide a one-time adjustment to legal status for experienced farm workers who are already working in the country but who currently lack legal documentation. The AgJOBS bill has wide bipartisan support.
Senator Clinton recently met with farmers from across the state who shared their concerns that the harvest season and their crops were being put in jeopardy by the current worker program in place - the H-2A legal guest worker program - which they say is antiquated, unworkable, and woefully inadequate.
[A copy of Senator Clinton's letter to Majority Leader Frist and Minority Leader Reid follows:]
Dear Majority Leader Frist and Minority Leader Reid:
With the Senate preparing to recess shortly, I am writing to stress the urgent need to pass meaningful immigration reform that addresses the workforce crisis facing our American farmers. For years, an overwhelming, bipartisan coalition of Senators has staunchly advocated for the passage of the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act (AgJOBS) and other legislative reforms that would provide our farmers with the long overdue relief they need to secure an adequate workforce. While much-needed, broader comprehensive immigration reform is being scuttled by election year politics, we owe it to our farmers, workers, and consumers to pass, at the very least, this essential agricultural worker reform so that we can safeguard our American farms.
Although I have long advocated for these reforms, their urgency was made even clearer to me during my recent meetings with scores of New York Farmers from around the state. They stressed to me that the current worker program in place - the H-2A legal guest worker program - is antiquated, unworkable, and woefully inadequate. Couple this with the recent increases in enforcement by the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the result has been major disruptions to our farms. Without AgJOBS and similar reforms, agricultural employers - who have long desired a legal, stable workforce and have been patiently waiting for their elected officials to enact needed reforms - face the prospect of crops dying on the vine or worse, their farms going out of business, because of a shortage of workers.
While there are several issues in the broader immigration debate that divide the Senate, the AgJOBS legislation is not one of them. There is wide bipartisan support to give our farmers what they have long needed - a stable, legal workforce that they can rely on. I am urging you both to make the passage of these agricultural reforms a priority before the Senate recesses so that we can protect the stability of our American farms.
Hillary Rodham Clinton