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Ellmers Introduces Bill to Protect Farmers from Obamacare Penalty

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC-02) released the following statement this afternoon after introducing H.R. 5392 – The Fairness for Farmers Act of 2014:

"Over the past decade, food prices have soared by as much as $210 per family* while the economy has failed to gain significant traction. Meanwhile, Obamacare penalties will hurt our farmers and their businesses through the employer mandate – which has led to food prices to skyrocket and caused farmers to cut back on production and jobs.”

“To help alleviate these burdens, protect jobs and prevent rising food prices, I have introduced the Fairness to Farmers Act. This bill will protect our farmers so they can continue to put food on our table and our families will be able to afford it.”

This afternoon, Congresswoman Ellmers introduced H.R. 5392 - The Fairness for Farmers Act of 2014. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide health insurance to all workers of a business that employs more than 50 “full-time equivalent” workers. This wide-ranging mandate includes seasonal agricultural workers in its calculation when determining if a business is required to provide health insurance or pay a penalty. This is another just another example of the unintended consequences of this poorly-conceived law.

Subjecting farmers who use the H-2A visa program to the employer mandate will have a detrimental effect on an industry that depends on our guest worker programs. The H-2A program is already overly-complicated and expensive. Farmers have to pay recruitment costs, visa fees, transportation, and housing on top of offering the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (a minimum wage meant to prevent U.S. workers from being disadvantaged). To add healthcare costs or penalties to this would make many farming operations unprofitable. Furthermore, labor-intensive crops will be disproportionately harmed, and many farmers may simply halt their operations.

North Carolina is the number one producer of sweet potatoes and tobacco in the country. These crops require labor-intensive work and subjecting farmers to the employee mandate will cause significant economic consequences for the state and the economy. The mandate will also adversely affect other specialty crops such as melons, berries and cucumbers. Moreover, it would be hard to claim that the Affordable Care Act was meant to cover foreign nationals – who, by their very nature, are here as temporary visa workers. This was never the intention and The Fairness for Farmers Act will immediately address this unfair burden to our nation’s food producers.

*According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/CRC/crc2012.pdf

Click Here to view H.R. 5392 - The Fairness for Farmers Act