National Affairs

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Speaker Paul Ryan on Guest Workers, Farm Bill

Paul Ryan, a 45 year old Republican from Wisconsin, was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives last week. While we were proud of the candidacy Florida’s Dan Webster (R-FL-10) put forth, Speaker Ryan’s election bodes well for fruit and vegetable growers of Florida, but fans of the traditional Farm Bill should beware.

A vocal proponent of immigration and guest worker reform, Paul Ryan understands the challenges facing growers of the hand-harvested crops which dominate Florida’s agriculture. However, for both political and ideological reasons, he has vowed not to work with the current administration to craft a deal to fix the broken system so we will have to wait until after the 2016 elections for relief. On the other hand, Speaker Ryan is unlikely to take up enforcement-only measures, like e-verify, which would harm Florida’s farmers and ranchers.

A Paul Ryan speakership is not necessarily good news for fans of traditional agriculture programs in the Farm Bill like ARC, PLC, and some crop insurance provisions. Ryan championed reforms to gut row crop supports like direct payments and supported adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations which disproportionately affected high-value growers. If Republicans maintain their control on the House as expected, Speaker Ryan will have a huge amount of influence on the next Farm Bill. Hearings for the next Farm Bill should begin next year so his influence will be marked on the bill from the start.