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House passes Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021

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In an effort to improve the American agricultural labor system, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

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:

  • Establishes 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.
  • Reforms the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers.
  • 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.

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said “As it’s currently designed, our farm labor system doesn’t work well for anyone involved. Farmers depend on highly skilled workers to help them with any number of tasks, but often face mountains of paperwork and excessive red tape in the hiring process. Farm workers, on the other hand, lack adequate protections, access to government assistance programs, options for long-term employment, or a clear future in this country.

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a mutually beneficial solution that will create a more functional and compassionate farm labor system. For agricultural employers, it will streamline and allow for greater flexibility in the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program, making it simpler to find and hire qualified employees. For workers, it will strengthen protections as well as establish a route to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment. Given its advantages for both parties, we welcome this practical piece of legislation and advise the Senate to quickly follow the House’s lead by taking up the important issue of farm labor reform.”

“Today’s bipartisan passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the House of Representatives provides crucial momentum toward addressing dairy’s ongoing workforce crisis, which has only intensified during the COVID pandemic,” said National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “Nothing gets done if we cannot move forward. The broad industry and bipartisan support for passing FWMA in the House demonstrates the acute need for ag labor reform this Congress and illustrates that consensus can be achieved.”

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