Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative applauds agricultural workforce bill

UNDATED – Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, one of the largest dairy co-ops in the country, today applauded the reintroduction of federal legislation that would provide a solution for dairy farmers desperate to hire and retain skilled workers.

U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., are resurrecting the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which had passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote in 2019 but was not considered by the Senate.

The bill, introduced late Wednesday, would provide a path to legalization for current farm workers and expand the H-2A foreign guest worker program, which would accommodate the year-round needs of livestock farmers. Click here for a summary of the bill.

Edge President Brody Stapel, a dairy farmer in Wisconsin, praised Lofgren and Newhouse for remaining committed to addressing what Stapel said is a crisis for his group’s farmers throughout the Midwest.

Brody Stapel

Changes in demographics, labor patterns and the nature of the jobs have made it impossible for farmers to fill all available positions with American citizens, Stapel said, and existing immigrant ag labor rules, which focus on seasonal work, are impractical.

“The struggle is very real for many of our farmers,” he said. “We need a solution that provides a path for qualified employees to come to this country and a system for keeping those already here. No business or industry can survive without a skilled and stable workforce.”

Stapel said that while certain parts of the bill are not ideal, it’s a compromise that provides the best opportunity in decades for a labor solution for farmers. The House approval in 2019 was the first time in more than 30 years that the chamber passed legislation to address agricultural labor.

“For years, we have worked to find common ground on this critical issue,” Stapel said. “There is too much at stake to let this opportunity pass us by.”