HENRICO, V.A. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger hosted a roundtable focused on immigration and workforce issues in Central Virginia, particularly as these issues relate to the ag economy and its recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
During the conversation, Spanberger spoke with local business owners and advocacy organizations — including the Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia Agribusiness Council, Farm Credit of the Virginias, and AmericanHort — about how Congress can find common ground as it seeks to modernize the U.S. immigration system, protect the rural economy, and cut red tape for crop and livestock producers.
Throughout the roundtable discussion, participants outlined how farms, agribusinesses, and greenhouses in Central Virginia need steady access to qualified and legal labor yet continue to face uncertainty amid an ongoing farm labor crisis. Additionally, Spanberger learned more about how existing visa requirements do not meet the employment requirements of local businesses and are long overdue for meaningful reforms at the federal level.
“Commonsense immigration reform is an issue that’s important to so many employers and workers here in Central Virginia. To keep their operations open and to grow their business, employers need reliable access to employees, many of whom they’ve known for years. Unfortunately, our current immigration system is broken and does not meet their needs,” said Spanberger. “Particularly in the middle of this economic crisis, we need to focus on passing legislation — including an infrastructure bill and immigration reform — that can support our recovery and contribute to the long-term growth of our economy. I’d like to thank our roundtable participants for their candid observations about the current state of our immigration system — and I look forward to remaining a strong advocate for our crop and livestock producers as they seek to retain their workforce. In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll be focused on finding common ground as we work to modernize our system, protect the rural economy, and cut down on red tape.”
“Virginia Farm Bureau truly appreciates Rep. Spanberger’s willingness to listen to the Commonwealth’s farmers and agriculture industry, and provide us with the opportunity to discuss issues of importance, like immigration and farm labor,” said Ben Rowe, National Affairs Coordinator, Virginia Farm Bureau. “We look forward to working with the Congresswoman in the 117th Congress.”
“As we work with our farmers and customer-owners, we value the opportunity to engage with our elected officials regarding issues of importance to agriculture. Workforce availability, including agricultural workers, continues to be a key area of concern for farmers across our territory, including in the 7th District,” said Katie Frazier, Chief External Affairs and Marketing Officer, Farm Credit of the Virginias. “We appreciate Congresswoman Spanberger’s commitment to finding workable solutions and continued dialogue with impacted industries, including the productive roundtable discussion she hosted this week.”
“Having a sustainable workforce is essential to our agribusinesses,” said Kyle Shreve, Executive Director, Virginia Agribusiness Council. “We appreciate the opportunity to have a very productive conversation on these important issues with Congresswoman Spanberger and look forward to working with her moving forward on much needed agricultural workforce and immigration reforms.”
Spanberger has long worked to improve predictability for Central Virginia agriculture employers and to reform the U.S. immigration system for farmworkers. In December 2019, the U.S. House passed bipartisan legislation Spanberger helped introduce to improve predictability for Central Virginia agriculture employers and to reform the U.S. immigration system for farmworkers.