Emergency Agricultural Relief Act dead in the water

Federal legislation that would have provided emergency relief to the nation’s current agricultural labor shortage has died a quick death.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the Emergency Agricultural Relief Act (EARA), authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Larry Craig (R-Idaho) from the Iraq war supplemental spending bill.

According to Sen. Feinstein, the Emergency Agriculture Relief Act would not have provided a path to citizenship or a green card. However, it would have granted temporary, limited immigration status for experienced farm workers who would be required to continue to work in American agriculture for the next five years.

The Western Growers Association (WGA) worked closely with Feinstein and her staff to bring the EARA to fruition. The Irvine, Calif.-based WGA is disappointed that Reid and other senators did not see this supplemental war spending bill as the right vehicle to address agriculture’s labor crisis.

Western Growers applauded Feinstein and Craig for not allowing the political climate of an election year deter them from pursuing a legal, stable agricultural workforce, according to a Western Growers’ statement.

Major points of the proposed Emergency Agriculture Relief Act included:

- Temporary limited immigration status for agriculture and horse workers;

- Temporary emergency agricultural program capped at 1.35 million workers;

- Emergency agricultural workers who have worked in agriculture to work at least 100 days per year in agriculture for the next five years;

- Required that workers pay a $250 fine, plus processing fees;

- Included a five-year sunset.

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