A last-ditch effort to pass a farm labor reform bill in the U.S. Senate has fallen short.
On Thursday, Senators approved a $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that does not include the Affordable and Secure Food Act, which Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, had attempted to attach as an amendment.
The bipartisan bill would have put limits on H-2A wage increases, offered a path to permanent legal status for existing workers and opened H-2A jobs to year-round employment, among other changes. It was similar to a labor reform measure twice passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that never made it to the Senate.
Agricultural employment advocates estimate it will take at least two years to reintroduce another similar measure in Congress.
The bill was supported by the U.S. Apple Association, Western Growers, Northwest Horticultural Council and the United Farm Workers.
“To get right up to the finish line — but not cross it — is a bitter pill to swallow when the bill would have improved the ag workforce picture by every measure,” USApple said in a statement.
“Without a stable, legal agricultural workforce, our nation will become increasingly dependent on imported food,” Western Growers said in its own statement.
Bennet’s labor bill was not the only proposed measure left out of the 4,000-plus-page spending bill. An enhanced child tax credit and new cannabis banking rules also did not make the cut, according to CNN.
The bill does, however, include more aid for Ukraine, increased funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a ban on the social media app TikTok on federal devices, among other measures.
—by Ross Courtney