The House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by a vote of 260 to 165. The bill would ease immigration for agricultural workers. It won the support of over 300 farm groups, as well as the United Farm Workers.
The Hagstrom Report points out that the California Farm Bureau supported the bill but the American Farm Bureau Federation did not. AFB fears the bill will lead to higher wages for farm workers and increase the legal vulnerability of farm employers. President Zippy Duvall says several amendments that would have addressed Farm Bureau concerns were blocked from consideration, so they “do not support the final bill passed by the House.”
Heritage Action for America says it grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants without doing anything to “reform our broken immigration system.” Zoe Lofgren of California, the lead sponsor of the bill, says, “Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for our farm workers.”
Republicans weren’t happy about the bill’s formula for calculating farm wages and complained that the year-round visa pilot program doesn’t include the meat and poultry sectors. They also objected to providing “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants working on U.S. farms. The bill’s prospects in the Senate and with President Trump are described as problematic.
U.S. farmers won’t see a North America trade deal under the Christmas tree this year, despite this week’s deal to move the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement forward.
The House of Representatives, which must act first, plans to vote by the end of next week, sending the trade deal to the Senate. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Wednesday the Senate won’t be able to consider the agreement until after Christmas, pushing Senate action on USMCA into 2020. McConnell cited a full slate of issues to consider, including spending bills, judicial appointments and the pending impeachment trial.
The January Senate calendar is blank, leaving room for a month of impeachment proceedings in the Senate. While Democrats were blamed for stalling the agreement, they’ve flipped the coin to blaming Senate Republicans for causing further delays. McConnell claims House Democrats waited too long before advancing the agreement to allow for the trade to become law this year. But, McConnell’s intentions could push a Senate vote to February.
A final agreement on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is within days, according to some in Washington. A Mexican trade official last week told reporters Mexico was expected to approve changes to the agreement this week, which could then set up a vote in Congress.
The official said, “maybe days, so maybe sometime next week,” regarding timing, according to Politico. The comments followed a meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. A vote doesn’t mean the deal can be completed still in 2019, but would mark significant progress to finalizing the trade pact within the next few months.
USMCA is one of many legislative items on the agenda this month, as Congress must also yet again work towards funding the federal government. Lawmakers may also consider two farm labor bills, and provisions regarding biodiesel tax credits, as part of a broader energy bill. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives continues its impeachment investigation this week in the House Judiciary Committee.