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Senate needs to pass Farm Workforce Modernization Act now

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Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), opinion contributor

The U.S. Department of Labor Consumer Price Index (CPI) report shows that Americans are facing the highest food price inflation since 1979. Grocery prices are up 13.5 percent over the past 12 months—bread prices have risen 16.2 percent, chicken costs have increased by 16.6 percent, and eggs have jumped a whopping 39.8 percent.

Being an elected official means leading—and this one’s a no-brainer. Bread, eggs, butter, produce, and meats are continuing to get more and more expensive for American families because the Senate has yet to act. Now, the financial strains on American families are excruciating. I urge Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to immediately file the Senate version of my legislation, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, that I twice passed out of the House to lower food prices and ease the current labor shortage—before it’s too late.

As a third-generation Yakima Valley farmer, I know all too well that farmers in my state—and nationwide—are struggling to stay in business because they just don’t have the labor supply to get food harvested, processed and packaged.

No matter how hard we try, there just aren’t enough domestic workers interested in doing this back-breaking work. And when there isn’t enough labor to get the job done, crops rot in the fields, our farmers’ livelihoods are threatened, and then food supply chains start breaking down and grocery prices go through the roof.

There’s a national security element here, too. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, next year, for the first time in U.S. history, we as a country will be importing more agricultural goods than we export. And a nation that cannot feed itself is not a secure nation.

Texas A&M International University recently released data from a new economic study on the link between stabilizing the agricultural workforce and decreasing inflation and consumer prices, showing that ensuring farmers have a stable, secure, reliable and legal workforce is crucial to keeping America’s grocery shelves stocked, combating inflation, and lowering food prices (including milk, eggs, meat, and produce) for all domestic consumers.

Fortunately, we have a clear solution: passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Doing so will make it easier for farmers to hire labor—not season to season, but permanently—and help lower the skyrocketing inflation American families are experiencing at the grocery store.

As a strong conservative dedicated to fiscal responsibility, I’m looking to Sen. Mike Crapo to lead the way on this. This legislation will not only deliver for our farmers but is crucial to rebuilding our once-strong economy. A Senate bill needs to be filed now so this process can move forward at once. We’ve waited long enough.

Back home in Central Washington, hop harvest is well underway, and I saw firsthand the struggle our producers are facing. The first topic of conversation is usually centered around our labor problems. And always unspoken, but understood, is the consideration for getting out of the business entirely, because it’s just not economically sustainable anymore.

It is past time we deliver solutions—not just empty promises—to our farmers and ranchers, to our farmworkers, and to all Americans who deserve affordable, quality, and safe food, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act will provide just that.

Dan Newhouse represents Washington’s 4th District.

Tags Dan Newhouse Farm Workforce Modernization Act Inflation Michael Bennet Mike Crapo Supply chain

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