For Immediate Release: Dec. 16, 2022
Contact: Marilyn Bay Drake 303-594-3827 email@example.com
The Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA) applauds Sen. Michael Bennet for yesterday’s introduction of the Affordable and Secure Food Act, which will provide needed reform to the federal H-2A guest worker program by protecting the current workforce, capping the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) to make it affordable and predictable, and protecting farmers from unnecessary litigation.
CFVGA has supported the principles of this bill since it was introduced and passed by the U.S. House as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in 2019 and again last year. CFVGA has advocated to update the H-2A program for today’s farming industry during meetings over the past three years between CFVGA, Sen. Bennet and other members of Congress.
“We urge Congress to pass the Affordable and Secure Food Act yet this year,” said Bruce Talbott, a Palisade, Colo., fruit grower and CFVGA president. “U.S. farmers are facing tremendous pressures from rising fuel and other input prices, making it difficult to stay in business. Passage of this bill would ensure a steady supply of agricultural employees, so that farmers can continue to provide the American public with quality, U.S. -grown food.”
CFVGA notes that growers are having to incorporate the cost of the Agriculture Labor Rights & Responsibilities Act (ALRRA) passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2021, which requires growers to pay overtime, provide additional paid breaks and restricts hand weeding and hand thinning. Federal law sets the H-2A minimum wage rate for Colorado at $16.34 per hour in 2023.
“Even though the overtime required by ALRRA did not go into effect until Nov. 1, we are already hearing of growers who plan to cut back on the number of vegetable acres they will plant,” said Marilyn Bay Drake, CFVGA executive director. “While Sen. Bennet’s bill does not impact these Colorado provisions, having a willing, qualified and available workforce is a big help to Colorado fruit and vegetable growers.”
CFVGA is urging the public to support farmers and give hard-working agricultural workers a pathway to citizenship by supporting the Affordable and Secure Food Act. A summary of the bill is here, and a Myths vs Facts sheet is here. Once the bill passes the Senate, it would go to the House for approval under a very tight timeline before Congress adjourns for the year.
The CFVGA is comprised of more than 250 members, including growers of all sizes and types of production throughout the state, as well as representatives of allied industries. The Colorado fruit and vegetable growing sector contributes nearly $485 million to Colorado at the farm gate and is multiplied as it goes through the distribution chain. Over 90,000 Colorado acres are in fruit and vegetable production.