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 America’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 last year, aims to provide a compromise solution that makes meaningful reforms to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically designed for the nation’s agricultural sector.
“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But many of them do so while living and working in a state of uncertainty and fear, which has only been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren. “Stabilizing the workforce will protect the future of our farms and our food supply. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act accomplishes this by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers and updating and streamlining the H-2A temporary worker visa program while ensuring fair wages and working conditions for all workers. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both Houses of Congress to get this bipartisan legislation that serves the best interests of our country to the President’s desk.”
“American agriculture is desperately in need of a legal, reliable workforce. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a solution – negotiated in good faith by agriculture groups, labor representatives, and Members on both sides of the aisle – that will do just that,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse. “As one of only a few farmers in Congress, I understand the invaluable contributions our producers and farmworkers make to our nation’s unparalleled agriculture industry. Bringing our agriculture labor program into the 21st century is absolutely critical as we work to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and ensure a stable food supply chain in the United States. We must act now to provide certainty to farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers across the country.”
The bill was negotiated over eight months in 2019 with input from farmers, agricultural stakeholders, labor organizations, and farmworker advocates. In December 2019, it became the first agriculture labor reform legislation to pass the House of Representatives since 1986. Since its passage in the House, a bipartisan coalition of Members has been working to strengthen support for the legislation.
The bill would:
- 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.
- Focus 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.