House Ag members explore ways to address labor challenges

A US Representative says Congress needs to find ways to utilize the SNAP Education and training programs to address the labor challenges plaguing the nation’s food supply chain. 

Rodney Davis represents the 13th District of Illinois and took part in a House Ag Committee hearing addressing those challenges on Wednesday.  “What do you think we can do to maybe work with our SNAP Workforce and Training program to pair up our community colleges in places like Bloomington and Normal and be able to get people trained to take the jobs you mentioned are available at Growmark,” he asked. 

Rod Wells, the chief supply chain officer at Illinois-based Growmark says they’re working closely with Community Colleges in the areas they serve.  “We have technology that we’ve purchased recently that allows them to, for instance, virtually drive a spray machine,” he says.  “We’re working very diligently in those areas and can see that as an opportunity to source that level of labor.”

Greg Ferrara, CEO of the National Grocers Association says they’re actively recruiting employees.   “We’ll train you,” he says.  “On the job training.  In our distribution centers, in our stores.  We’ll teach you to drive a forklift, we’ll teach you to slice meat or we’ll teach you to be a baker.  We talk about truck drivers – some of our members will pay for trucking school for those who go through that.”

The House Agriculture Committee also heard from representatives of the baking industry, the fruit and vegetable industry, and the dairy industry.

Davis says they’re also urging employers to consider offering a new student loan tax benefit as a way to recruit more employees.  The Employer Participation in Repayment Act allows employers to make tax-free student loan payments of up to $5,250 a year on behalf of their employees. 

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