Oct 30, 2019
Lawmakers unveil Farm Workforce Modernization Act, draw praise from produce groups

U.S. House lawmakers on Oct. 30 unveiled a bipartisan agriculture labor package that would offer a path to legalization for farmworkers and expand the H-2A visa program for foreign labor.

This is an immigration reform bill to improve agricultural job opportunities, benefits and security for undocumented workers in the United States. This bill also allows for the petition of spouses and children to be granted status as well. The title of the legislation is “Farm Workforce Modernization Act.”

Several statements of support were issued by organizations connected to specialty crops production.

National Potato Council 

The National Potato Council applauded the introduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID). 

“Representatives Lofgren, Newhouse and Simpson should be commended for months of work in crafting this bipartisan bill,” said Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council. “Passing legislation in the House of Representatives will send a strong message that agricultural labor reform can occur in this Congress.”

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act includes; key reforms for the current improperly documented workforce, enhancements and streamlining of the agricultural guest worker program and implementation of domestic enforcement mechanisms including E-Verify. It was introduced with a strong list of bipartisan House co-sponsors, including many from potato-producing states. 

“The potato industry is strongly supportive of beginning the legislative process to provide a solution for American agriculture’s labor crisis,” Quarles added. “We will take every opportunity to enhance this legislation on the House floor, in the Senate and in a conference committee in order to enact a long-term solution for our industry.”

The National Potato Council represents the interests of U.S. potato growers on federal legislative, regulatory, environmental and trade issues. The value of U.S. potato production is over $3.7 billion annually and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs both directly and indirectly. 

The National Potato Council is a member of the Agricultural Workforce Coalition that speaks for American agriculture on labor reform legislation. 

United Fresh Produce Association

The United Fresh Produce Association applauds the introduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization ActThis legislation represents an important step forward addressing to the challenge that the fresh produce industry faces with regards to labor availability and answers the call from the industry in September during United Fresh’s Washington Conference.

“I want to thank Chairwoman Lofgren and Congressman Dan Newhouse for their leadership in introducing this bill. Joined by a broad, bipartisan group of legislators, these two members have reached an agreement that will reform our immigration system for generations to come,” said Tom Stenzel, President & CEO, United Fresh Produce Association. “More work is needed to improve this legislation, but in a time where Washington can’t seem to agree on anything, these members have stepped forward and recognized that the challenge of immigration reform is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem, it is an American problem, and we need to fix it.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would provide legal status for long-term agriculture workers, make vital improvements to the H-2A visa program and ensure security for all by requiring that agriculture employers participate in the E-Verify program.”

National Council of Farmers Cooperative

Statement of NCFC President Chuck Conner on the Introduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act:

“I would like to applaud Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Dan Newhouse for their leadership in introducing bipartisan legislation to address labor crisis faced by American agriculture. Throughout the process, they were open to input from stakeholders, including NCFC and the other members of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is an important first step in the process of passing legislation to help farmers and ranchers across the country find the employees they need to harvest crops or care for livestock.

“The legislation points the way towards achieving many of the long-standing immigration reform goals of NCFC and others in agriculture. While there are provisions that are problematic, on balance it is a good starting point for the legislative process. It provides an opportunity to obtain an earned legal status for the current workforce in agriculture; it codifies many of the reforms that the Trump Administration has made to the current H-2A program and provides some certainty over labor costs; and it authorizes a limited number of year-round visas for those farmers with year-round labor needs, such as those in dairy and livestock.

“We look forward to working with Chairwoman Lofgren, Congressman Newhouse and the other co-sponsors as the bill moves forward to ensure that the bill leads to a solution that ensures agriculture producers have access to a legal and stable workforce.”

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