AFVGA Cautiously Watching Farm Bill Process

Clint ThompsonAlabama

By Clint Thompson

Like other specialty crop organizations, the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (AFVGA) is pleased to see movement being made on the farm bill. With the House Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture Committee passing frameworks of a bill, the AFVGA is eyeing both leadership members to see what is next, says Blake Thaxton, executive director of the AFVGA.

Blake Thaxton

“We’re cautiously watching to see if they can come together and pass something since there seems to be opposing proposals up there,” Thaxton said. “From AFVGA’s standpoint, the biggest thing we want to see is research dollars for mechanization, automation in specialty crops so that it can help with the labor challenges that we’re facing; to come up with alternatives to the expensive labor situation that we find ourselves in and the rising costs in H-2A rates, and the fact that we can’t find domestic workers that want to do the work that is required for the industry.”

The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. But it is very expensive and can be an extremely cumbersome process to go through and stay on the right side of compliance.

“We still want to see the H-2A program be improved. It’s a good program that’s worked well for our farmers, but we need to start thinking about how do we progress into the future and reduce the labor needs in the industry. Through university research and investments into that area, we think that is the best way to attack that issue,” Thaxton said.