Why Idaho farmers need immigration reform

By Rep. MIKE SIMPSON | Guest columnist

My childhood was spent working on the farms and ranches of southeastern Idaho. When a challenge arose, we fixed it. Hay needed hauled, pipe needed moved, heifers needed calved and potatoes needed picked. Many years have passed, and while my days of hauling hay are long behind me, I still believe when you see a problem you must try and solve it. Those who feed this world need our help.

Today, farmers struggle to find the workforce they need to survive. When I meet with dairymen and potato farmers, maintaining a legal workforce is always their number one issue. The H-2A program, which allows temporary foreign workers, has doubled since 2012. Ask a farmer and they will tell you this program is flawed, cumbersome and bureaucratic. But for Idaho’s family farmers, it is their only option. Even worse for dairy farmers, there is currently no option because there is not a year-round program available.

The lack of a stable workforce to meet the growing demand for Idaho’s products and a flawed process to grow our workforce has created a labor crisis for Idaho’s agriculture community. That is why I recently joined a Congressional bipartisan coalition to assist Idaho’s agriculture community — a community that accounts for 20 percent of our state’s economy. For months I have been meeting with farmers and farmworkers in Idaho and across the country.

Finding a solution has not been an easy process in the Democrat-controlled House, but the American people are sick of seeing inaction from D.C. on this issue. If we want to fix this problem, it must be bipartisan to have a lasting impact. Fortunately for our farmers, and their families, Idaho had a seat at the table to help create this solution.
President Trump called for merit-based immigration reform while avoiding amnesty.

This bill accomplishes both. For guest workers to obtain permanent legal status and the ability to work, they must pay a thousand-dollar penalty and commit to future work in agriculture labor. And there is no special treatment or pathway.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act accomplishes this by using pieces of President Trump’s rule on modernizing H-2A, implements strong conservative measures, such as e-verify, while allowing for a process to ensure farmers have the workforce they need to keep putting food on the table. Fundamentally, FWMA incorporates Idaho solutions to solve a national problem.

There are aspects of this bill that I would have avoided had the House majority been in different hands. However, this bill goes a long way to solve the problem. In short, this bill stabilizes the current workforce, provides for future labor needs and addresses both rising labor costs and a year-round worker program that our dairymen desperately need.
If we want to fix our broken immigration system and get rid of bad actors in this country, we need sound policies in place for the majority of immigrants who respect the system, want to work legally and see Idaho as their home. Absent that we will continue to operate under a patchwork of laws that spread thin our valuable law enforcement resources, and away from the real issues that threaten our public safety. To put it another way, I want our patriotic police officers and sheriff deputies to keep us safe from threats to our physical safety. Not spending their time dealing with issues created by our nation’s broken immigration system.

Compromise is hard. So is farm labor. But hard work and compromise are exactly what we need to solve this problem and support our agriculture industry so Idaho farmers and families can continue to feed the world. I’m pleased that over 40 agriculture and business groups in Idaho support the bill.

Find the original article at postregister.com