Press Releases

Bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act Passes House Judiciary Committee

Washington, November 21, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bipartisan bill spearheaded by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04), Mike Simpson (R-ID-02), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) passed the House Judiciary Committee with a 18-12 vote, and is ripe for consideration by the full House.

The bipartisan effort was negotiated over eight months with input from agricultural stakeholders and labor organizations and was introduced with the support of 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans.

“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But, farmworkers across the country are living and working with uncertainty and fear, contributing to the destabilization of farms across the nation,” said Rep. Lofgren. “Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers. In addition, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses the nation’s future labor needs by modernizing an outdated system for temporary workers, while ensuring fair wages and workplace conditions. This momentous vote today in the Judiciary Committee moves our proposal forward so all Members can soon vote on the first-of-its-kind bipartisan immigration compromise in decades that improves America’s agricultural labor programs and laws.”

“This is an excellent step forward for a bipartisan bill that will be a building block to improve and modernize America’s agriculture industry,” said Rep. Newhouse. “As the Farm Workforce Modernization Act continues to move through the legislative process, I am grateful for my colleagues, the farmers and farmworkers, and the organizations and stakeholders who worked to make this legislation a reality. I am hopeful the legislation will now move quickly to the House floor, and I look forward to the continued opportunity to perfect the bill in the Senate.” Click here for a one-pager, click here for bill text and click here to read a letter of support from more than 300 agricultural groups.

“I am thrilled to see the Farm Workforce Modernization Act pass the House Judiciary Committee and thank Chairwoman Lofgren for her leadership advancing the legislation,” said Rep. Simpson. “Farmers in Idaho need a stable and legal workforce and moving this bill farther along in the process is a positive step towards a solution. The forward momentum today helps move this bill one step closer to the House floor and creates another opportunity for more bipartisan input and support.”

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a critical, bipartisan step forward for both our farmers and farmworkers that will help ensure the continued success or our agriculture and America,” Rep. Panetta said. “I am proud to have worked on this bill with Chairwoman Lofgren and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I urge House leadership to protect our existing farmworkers and promote an enduring workforce for agriculture by scheduling our bipartisan bill for a floor vote.”

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a great example of members of Congress from both parties coming together to produce a piece of legislation that is greatly needed. It will provide some long-overdue stability for our agriculture industry in a manner that is fair to farmers and will provide for fully documented farmworkers that are willing to follow our laws in order to work in this country. Farmers have been calling for a legally documented workforce for years. The bill protects the workers with legal status and facilitates humane travel across our borders. I’m very pleased to see this important legislation move through committee today, and I look forward to voting for it on the House floor soon,” said Rep. LaMalfa.

“We are one step closer to finally solving the labor crisis facing our nation’s agriculture,” said Rep. Diaz-Balart. “This bill has not only received bipartisan support, but over 300 agriculture organizations have advocated for the passing of this legislation, which adheres to the rule of law, modernizes our antiquated H2A visa system, and bolsters the economy. I encourage the Speaker to bring this important legislation to the floor for a vote so that we can achieve a good-faith, bipartisan solution for our nation's farmers.”

Background:

Farmers and ranchers across the United States are in desperate need of a high-quality, reliable workforce, and the current H-2A guestworker program is in need of meaningful, bipartisan reform.  The Farm Workforce Modernization Act creates a workforce solution for America’s agriculture industry by providing stability, predictability, and fairness to one of the most critical sectors of our nation’s economy.

The bill will:

  • Establish a program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.
  • Reform the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers. The bill focuses on modifications to make the program more responsive and user-friendly for employers and provides access to the program for industries with year-round labor needs.
  • Establish mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment with a structured phase-in and guaranteed due process for authorized workers who are incorrectly rejected by the system.

 

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