They call this the “silly season” in Washington, D.C.

“Silly season” is the period after Labor Day and ahead of the midterm elections as another Congress flails around ahead of its passage into history.  Curious proposals make their way into introduced legislation that have virtually no chance of ever being able to muster enough support to gain Committee attention, let alone Floor action.  However, they are advanced so a member can go back to their state or district to campaign and tout what they have done on behalf of their constituents.

Of course, there is some real work that needs to occur in the Congress as it wraps, but that sometimes seems to be an afterthought to the silliness.

Prior to the end of September, the Congress will have to agree on a plan to keep the government funded.  Funding for the programs the government has implemented has to be approved on a regular basis and, absent that approval, certain aspects of the government are forced into shutdown.  Several years ago, we witnessed one of these shutdowns, the consequent tumble in stock markets around the world reflecting concern that the U.S. might default on its debt, and even the absurdity of long lines of government employees queueing for distributions from food banks.  

I witnessed these lines here in D.C. close to my office near the FBI building.  A somber sight in our nation’s capital.

A couple of different “cures” to a standoff over the potential closure of the government will be considered.  One would be for the Congress to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to continue to fund the government and its programs.  A CR is a type of appropriations legislation that extends funding at the same level as in the prior fiscal year but terminates on a certain date.  After which, the Congress must pass another CR or, do its work and pass the government appropriations measures, as is their responsibility.

A second “cure” would be an omnibus spending bill.  An omnibus spending bill is a type of bill that packages many of the smaller ordinary appropriations bills the Congress is required to pass into one larger single bill that can be passed with only one vote in each Chamber.  However, as we have seen in the past, these omnibus bills can be “Christmas treed” and adorned with various ornaments extrinsic to the necessary appropriations.  This can lead to omnibus failure due to an inability to garner enough votes or, it can lead to less than desirous outcomes.

The circumstance of this silly season has consequences for agricultural labor.

Following the passage of a CR in this Congress, members will recess to their states and districts to campaign for reelection.  And the election season thankfully ends on a date statutorily set by the Federal Government as “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November”.  Alternatively, the Congress could choose to pass an omnibus measure ahead of the end of September and assure the government stays funded.

So, what this means for agricultural labor reform, is that our time is exceedingly short to get anything done.

In March 2021, the House of Representatives passed HR 1603 “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021” (FWMA).  While it is not a perfect bill, as no legislation is, it reflects rare bipartisan progress on a vexing issue that must be addressed.

Since then, NCAE and our aggie allies have been working to advance a more employer-friendly version of this legislation in the U.S. Senate.  This Senate effort has been championed by Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) reflecting the bipartisan attention this issue requires as well as the necessity of acquiring 60 votes to pass off the Senate floor.  Their negotiations are not yet complete.

This means that for agricultural employers who have been looking to this Congress to at last provide a solution to the demand for agricultural labor that constantly outraces supply, options are limited. 

The Congress could pass the omnibus spending bill discussed earlier and attempt to attach ag labor reform to that piece of legislation.  Alternatively, after the midterm elections, and during the “lame duck” session of the 117th Congress, bipartisan leadership in both Chambers could join to advance legislation on this critical issue.

It may be the “silly season” in D.C., but for agricultural employers, it’s not funny.

(Washington, D.C.) The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) is pleased to announce the sharing of agricultural employers’ stories.

“U.S. farm and ranch families employ millions of essential farmworkers each year,” said Michael Marsh, NCAE President and CEO. “Because of those families, their workers, and their families’ commitment to maintaining the legacy of the family farm and ranch, Americans possess the highest level of food security on the planet. However, there is much, much more to this story.”

Due to their unique tie to the land, farm and ranch families form the bedrock of their community. After toiling for long days, family members take time to give back to the community to make it a better place. They coach children’s sports teams, volunteer for their church, hospital, or library board. In their spare time, they pitch in to ensure the local fire department’s fundraiser is successful. And, if a neighbor is down or feeling poorly, they will stop by to share a thoughtful word or bring a meal to someone without.

And sometimes, they turn tragedy into an opportunity to do good.

“The first story we will share in this series of stories about agricultural employers involves NCAE
member Mercer Ranches, which is a highly diversified farming operation in Washington’s Horse
Heaven Hills along the Columbia River,” said Marsh. “This story, like so many stories in the ag
employer family is inspirational. It is an example of selflessness and giving back to recognize
others’ bravery and selflessness. We hope you enjoy the story.”

NCAE is the national trade association focusing on agricultural labor issues from the employer’s


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How One NCAE Member Transformed Tragedy into an Opportunity to Give Back

How we respond in the face of adversity says a lot about who we are, both as people and as organizations. However, turning tragedy into an opportunity to help and support others takes a special vision and collaboration.

When John Derrick, the Vineyard Manager of Mercer Ranches in Prosser, Washington, learned he lost his close friend in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he was devastated.

John’s friend, Richard Guadagno, was one of the heroic passengers of Flight 93. As we know, Flight 93 crashed into the Pennsylvania farmland after passengers thwarted a fourth attack on U.S. soil–one that likely was meant to destroy the United States Capitol.

John knew he needed to do something to honor his friend and the others lost in the 9/11 attacks. “To me,” John explained, “to be able to tell this story of Flight 93 was important.” For John, however, the path forward was not so clear. “I always questioned how I was going to end up helping.”

Rob Mercer, President of Mercer Ranches, previously served as a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and reenlisted
to serve in Iraq in 2007-2008. When he returned to Mercer Ranches, John approached him with this desire to honor the memory of his friend. Rob and John discussed opportunities to commemorate those lives lost and the role that Mercer Ranches could play.

Ultimately, the vision to plant a memorial block of their vineyard, Block 93, came to fruition.

With the concept of Block 93 fresh in their minds, John and Rob began to work. Ground preparation of the one-acre lot that would become Block 93 began in the Horse Heaven Hills in 2009. In 2010, they planted 911 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes earmarked for use in a premium wine. Members of Mercer Ranches and the surrounding community volunteered to plant the last 40 vines—representing the 40 passengers and crew lost on Flight 93—by hand.

What began as a personal memorial quickly evolved. “It is a super powerful idea,” John said, “that came out of talking about something that I wanted and needed–and something that Rob wanted and needed as well.”

John credits Rob’s vision and leadership for turning Block 93 into a charity. Rob, he explained, saw Block 93 as a way to turn the tragedy of 9/11 into an opportunity for Mercer Ranches to give back to the community.

All proceeds of Block 93 are donated to charitable organizations such as Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, and Friends of Flight 93. Mercer also donates bottles of Block 93 to other organizations, including the Flight 93 Memorial in Stoystown, Pennsylvania, which are then able to leverage the wine to raise money for their own causes.

Since starting Block 93, John explained, “we have donated over a quarter of a million dollars.”

Beyond the direct impact Block 93 makes as a charity, it also provides Mercer Ranches an opportunity to build bridges with the surrounding community. As a large farm, and particularly one that is associated with a winery, there are a lot of tours involved. “Getting that chance to get one-on-one time [with visitors] is powerful,” he added.

Visitors are often unaware of the path food takes to get to the plate, and may even have negative preconceptions about agriculture. John explained that Block 93 gives him the opportunity to “share and say I am just as human as you are and we really [have] quite a bit in common…[E]veryone knows where they were [on 9/11], what they were doing, and how it impacted them—directly or indirectly.”

As a result, he added, visitors have told him “they appreciate what we are doing and that we are telling the story.”

This bridge works both ways, he added. “I have gotten to hear their stories as well.”

Block 93 is a crown jewel for Mercer Ranches and exemplifies the good that the agricultural community can do. For other agricultural employers looking for their own charitable opportunity, John has some advice.

“I think the need is out there for everyone to get more involved with the community,” he explained. “No matter your idea or how you connect, there is somebody that wants to connect with you as well and has that same need. Take your ideas and run with them—they will find traction.”

Telling one’s story can have a tremendous impact on changing minds about what agriculture is. As John said, “we know what we know—getting to share allows us to find commonality.”

NCAE Spotlight Mercer Ranches


(Washington, D.C.) The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) announced today the opening of registration for the 9th Annual Ag Labor Forum which will be held November 30 – December 2, 2022, at the beautiful M Resort just outside Las Vegas, Nevada.  Each year, NCAE’s event brings together key leaders in the agricultural employment and labor communities from across the United States and around the world. 

Attorneys, academics, agents, as well as representatives from federal agencies and foreign governments will delve into labor issues facing US agricultural employers.  Recent litigation, rulemaking changes and reports on cutting edge legislation impacting farm and ranch operations will be highlighted, as will compliance issues relative to ag employment.

“Back, due to popular demand, is NCAE’s Advocacy Boot Camp where “recruits” learn to master the fundamentals of political advocacy in making their case to legislators, regulators and the public,” said Marsh.  “The small group setting makes for a fun and stimulating dialogue as our Boot Camp “recruits” learn how to effectively message positions.  The Boot Camp starts the day before the Forum on November 29th and is a sellout event as space is limited.  Be sure and register early and avoid the waitlist.”

Also featured this year are concurrent sessions highlighting the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Visa Program.  Attendees at these stimulating sessions, along with many others throughout the Forum, are eligible to receive continuing education credit from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

“Sponsorship opportunities are available for this event that reaches hundreds of attendees,” said Marsh.  “Of course, NCAE Members receive a significant discount off registration fees. This event offers members and nonmembers both a “look under the hood” of the battles NCAE wages in Congress and with federal agencies on behalf of agricultural employers.  This is a must-attend event!”

Registration for the Advocacy Boot Camp, Labor Forum, H-2A Day and NCAE’s discounted room block, can be accessed by going to

NCAE is the national trade association focusing on agricultural labor issues from the employer’s viewpoint.


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