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Lawmakers introduce bill to address ag labor shortage

Lawmakers introduce bill to address ag labor shortage

The ASPIRE Act would establish an apprenticeship-based training program within USDA

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Two lawmakers introduced legislation to help ensure the U.S. ag sector has the labor force required to support the industry.

Minnesota congresspeople Senator Tina Smith and Rep. Brad Finstad tabled the Agriculture Skills Preparation for Industry Recruitment Efforts Act (ASPIRE Act) in their respective chambers.

The bill, which Sen. Smith also introduced in 2022, “establishes a work-based agriculture training program within the USDA’s existing Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program,” a July 18 press release says. “This funding will help boost participation in apprenticeship and internship programs with local agriculture businesses and create a pathway for more workers to enter the agriculture and farming sectors.”

People interested in working in ag could complete these internships or apprenticeships at community colleges or other industry organizations.

The U.S. is challenged when it comes to the ag workforce.

Many farmers rely on attracting workers using the H-2A program, but the application process can be complicated, and the workers within the program are only temporary.

And between 1950 and 2000, the industry experienced a 73 percent drop in the number of self-employed and family farmworkers, data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Farm Labor Survey says.

The ag industry has been sounding the alarm on farm labor shortages for years.

Working in ag is physically demanding and people aren’t up to it, said Mary Yahner, a beef farmer from Cambria County in Pennsylvania.

“Let’s be brutally honest, Americans don’t want to do manual labor,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2021. “Not everybody can be a computer programmer. We still need the mechanics and the carpenters and the farmers and the truck drivers. Who the heck is going to run these farms and keep our world fed?"

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