What is the Farm Workforce Modernization Act?

Accessibility to a stable labor force has been and continues to be among top challenges for specialty crop growers. Introduction of the new Farm Workforce Modernization Act (HR 4916) might be what finally gets growers the helping hands they need.

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The bipartisan bill, introduced by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA), seeks to streamline the legal channels for future seasonal and permanent workers and clarify the hiring process. The proposed legislation is built on three main pillars/titles (1. Earned Status for Certified Agricultural Workers; 2. Improving the H-2A Program; and 3. Mandatory E-Verify for the Agricultural Sector).

Click here to read the bill’s summary.

Ag industry association leaders are speaking out about the proposed legislation. Here’s what some of them had to say.

Robert Guenther, Senior VP, Public Affairs, United Fresh Produce Association: “This was the result of months of negotiation sessions with Democratic and Republican House offices, industry stakeholders, and farmworker advocates. Most importantly, this bill addresses many of the issues the fresh produce industry has been advocating for over the last two decades including a pathway to legalization for the current workforce and significant reforms to the H-2A program. United Fresh was proud to be part of this effort and also helping garner 44 original cosponsors. There is still work to be done and we will need the entire industry pushing their elected officials to support this effort over the next several weeks.”

Jim Bair, President and CEO, U.S. Apple Association: “The legislation represents a significant improvement over the status quo for our growers in the H-2A program and those who employ domestic workers. The legislation is a compromise and the first step in a lengthy process. We will continue to provide input and seek improvements as that process moves forward. Each year, growers coast to coast face uncertainty as to whether there will be sufficient labor to harvest the crop. 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.”

Craig Regelbrugge, Senior VP, AmericanHort: “This bipartisan compromise advances an important debate and provides a platform for serious consideration of urgently needed reforms addressing the agricultural sector and farm employees. What happens on the farm doesn’t stay on the farm; the work contributions of each farm worker create and sustain two to three job opportunities in the surrounding economy. Rural areas across the country benefit from the jobs and economic opportunity that farm workers create, so long as we are growing and producing labor-intensive crops and commodities here in America. We urge both the House and Senate to move swiftly to advance and improve upon this important legislative foundation.”

Tom Nassif, President & CEO, Western Growers: “The introduction of this bill, which is the product of many months of dedicated work and careful negotiation between legislators, staff, and key stakeholders, constitutes an agreement that few thought was possible. However, this is just the beginning. What lies ahead is a very important process that will require the support of both political parties and the President. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act has the resounding support of the agriculture community and contains principles that have historically received backing on both sides of the aisle. We, along with our Congressional champions and partners in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, commit ourselves to moving the Farm Workforce Modernization Act forward this legislative session.”