The United Fresh Produce Association has praised the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship for holding a hearing on “Securing the Future of American Agriculture” in Washington D.C.
United Fresh president and CEO Tom Stenzen called the Wednesday hearing, which tackled labor challenges facing the produce industry, “the first…in many years where we truly heard a bipartisan commitment to finding real solutions.”
At the hearing, United Fresh provided testimony outlining the industry’s needs as well as potential solutions.
In the association’s eyes, the hearing could not be any more timely or important. “Chairwoman Lofgren understands that our industry is facing an uncertain future without a reliable, legal workforce,” said Tom Stenzel.
“For too long, the fresh fruit and vegetable industry has struggled to ensure that we have an adequate, legal workforce to harvest and produce the fruits and vegetables that consumers want and need.
“This hearing is an important first step in the journey to pass legislation that will ensure we have the workforce needed to harvest America’s abundant fruit and vegetables.”
United Fresh says it remains committed to pushing for legislation that addresses the legal status of the industry’s current workforce, a challenge being that many workers remain improperly documented. Another of the association’s aims is to help pass legislation that addresses the industry’s future needs.
With that view, the United Fresh board of directors approved a policy focused on modernizing a number of immigration reform issues earlier this year.
A few concerns the policy covers are year-round visas for workers rather than temporary or seasonal ones, a “fair and predictable” wage rate, and housing and transportation allowances for foreign workers.
Others include flexibility for workers and employers in portability with up to three-year visas, and calling for the USDA to take a stronger administrative role in supporting U.S. agriculture needs.