Potato industry leaders from throughout the country led a rally outside of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon, urging the Senate to take action on a comprehensive farm labor reform bill.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and leaders from the U.S. Apple Association and the Agricultural Workforce Coalition also spoke in support of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act during the event, organized by the National Potato Council (NPC).
The House of Representatives has already passed the bill, which speakers at the rally said was drafted based on nine months of intensive meetings and compromise. Participants in the rally urged the Senate to pass the legislation this session for President Donald Trump to sign into law. Advocates touted the bill as critical for keeping U.S. farms in business.
A large Idaho contingent attended the rally, supporting what they hope will become the first comprehensive labor reform since 1986.
NPC President Britt Raybould, a St. Anthony potato farmer, said the bill would result in “long-term labor solutions” and she commended lawmakers who supported it for reaching across party lines. “Doing what’s right is not always easy,” Raybould said.
R.J. Andrus, an NPC Executive Committee member from Idaho Falls who works for Idahoan Foods, said under the status quo, an immigration raid at the wrong time could destroy a year’s worth of farm production. The bill would provide stability to thousands of agricultural workers and their employers, he said.
The NPC is the lobbying arm of the potato industry.
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Photo: Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, speaks Wednesday afternoon outside of the U.S. Capitol Building in support of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.