Steube Introduces Legislation to Combat Rising Food Prices for American Families
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Representative Greg Steube (R-Fla.) introduced the Keep Food Local & Affordable Act to combat the recent rise in food prices experienced across the country due to historic labor shortages and inflation. This legislation would implement a temporary stay on the H-2A Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) for states struggling to find domestic workers to help stabilize U.S. food prices and ensure food production stays in the U.S.
“Inflation has risen rapidly over the past year, increasing food and labor costs for Americans and farmers,” Steube said. “Biden’s inept leadership and reckless economic policies have created historic inflation and an unemployment and supply chain disaster that is leaving our grocery store shelves and wallets empty. The temporary stay placed on the H-2A AEWR will help address the rising input costs crippling our farmers and consumers.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices increased 4.6% from September 2020 to September 2021, impacting the ability of Americans, particularly low to moderate income earners, to put food on the table. Americans have also seen their fuel prices rise by as much as 100%, and producers have seen their fertilizer prices increase by roughly 60% in Florida. Due to widespread inflation, the 2022 AEWR is expected to rise significantly, increasing U.S. food production costs and exacerbating the ongoing labor crisis. For reference, the AEWR increased over 20% over the last 5 years when inflation remained below 2.5%. The Keep Food Local & Affordable Act would implement a temporary stay on AEWR increases, which will maintain more reasonable input costs for farmers and keep food costs lower for Americans.
“AFBF appreciates the leadership of Rep. Steube to address concerns with the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) for the H-2A program,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President, Zippy Duvall. “The Keep Food Local and Affordable Act is a targeted response to immediate concerns regarding inflation and rising food costs. It provides temporary AEWR relief to farmers while Congress continues to work toward a long-term solution to agriculture’s workforce shortage.”
“Labor issues remain the major challenge facing Florida farmers today. That’s why we have come to rely heavily on the H-2A program,” stated Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith. “Coupled with rising costs across the farm, it creates an untenable position for agriculture. Florida’s farmers and ranchers commend Mr. Steube for this effort to rein in out-of-control costs and preserve domestic food production.“
“The Keep Food Local & Affordable Act of 2021 will help reduce the impacts of the workforce, trade, and supply chain issues on the agriculture industry, providing short-term relief to costs that are felt first by American farmers, and then ultimately, consumers. The bill also underscores the need for long-term wage rate stability and comprehensive agricultural labor reform,” said Mike Joyner, President of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. “We commend U.S. Rep. Steube and others for their leadership on this issue. We hope this effort and others encourage the U.S. Senate to continue its effort to produce meaningful labor reform that strengthens the future of American agriculture and our nation’s food security.”
“At a time when the Florida citrus industry is already seeing record high production costs and finding it increasingly difficult to find domestic labor, a significant increase in the AEWR would be devastating,” said Mike Sparks, Executive Vice President and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “The Keep Food Local & Affordable Act provides a mechanism to ensure that growers are able to continue providing a healthy, delicious product right here at home. We’re grateful to Congressman Steube for his work on this Bill and his continued support of Florida’s signature industry.”
This legislation is the House companion bill to S. 3134, introduced by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Original cosponsors in the House are Representatives David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), Barry Moore (R-Ala.), Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Rick Allen (R-Ga.).
The full text of the legislation can be found here.