Industry celebrates reintroduction of Farm Workforce Modernization Act
On Wednesday, March 4, U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) reintroduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 1537, which creates a workforce solution for the U.S. agriculture industry by providing stability, predictability, and fairness to one of the most critical sectors of our nation’s economy.
The bill, which passed the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support in the 116th Congress, aims to provide a compromise solution that makes meaningful reforms to the H-2A agricultural guest-worker program and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically designed for the nation’s agricultural sector.
“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act introduced by Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) is a testament to the efforts the agriculture industry and our friends in labor and of course to the bipartisan members of Congress who are supporting this legislation," said United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "There remains work to be done to address our industry’s labor challenges, but this bill is an integral first step towards achieving our ultimate goal. United Fresh Produce Association and its members have pushed for this reform for many years and we look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to make it a reality.”
“We appreciate the effort of Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Dan Newhouse, and all of our congressional champions, to keep the agricultural labor crisis front and center in the debate over immigration reform,” said Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which passed with bipartisan support in the House in 2019, is the culmination of nearly a decade of negotiations between key stakeholders and represents an important first step toward resolving, once and for all, one of the biggest challenges facing Amerian farmers.”
The U.S. Apple Association also applauded the reintroduction of the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 1537. “The legislation is a necessary and important first step in addressing the labor crisis growers and other farmers are experiencing,” said Jim Blair, president and CEO of U.S. Apple Association. “We thank Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Dan Newhouse and others for reintroducing this meaningful agriculture labor reform that will greatly benefit the U.S. apple industry, which relies heavily on foreign born labor.”
Bair went on to note that the 2021 Farm Workforce Modernization Act will help to stabilize the current agricultural workforce by creating a process to gain work authorization to continue working in agriculture. The legislation is substantively the same as in 2019, but includes technical updates to reflect the passing of time. The bill also brings need modernization and cost containment to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program, Bair said.
“Each year growers coast-to-coast face uncertainty as to whether there will be sufficient labor to harvest the crop,” Bair said. “The current system causes an unstable situation for not only apple growers, but for all farmers who depend on immigrant labor to bring Americans healthy and affordable food. A stable, legal and reliable workforce is critical if we are to continue to have a vibrant domestic apple supply. For these reasons, we urge Congress to pass this legislation so that it can move to the Senate.”
CFFA President Ian LeMay added, “The ability to have reliable, legal workforce represents one of most important steps forward our industry has made in over 30 years. H.R. 1537 will address critical needs within agriculture by providing a pathway to legal status for current undocumented employees, along with reform to the current H-2A program. There is no doubt the agricultural industry has waited many years for an immigration reform bill to address the labor concerns amongst the many different commodities produced here domestically so that it can continue to provide the nation and world with safe and reliable food supply long into the future.”