Introduction of Farm Workforce Modernization Act
- by Anne Allen
NORTH AMERICA - New labor legislation is beginning to take form, with the introduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. On Wednesday, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the bipartisan bill, which would provide legal status for long-term agricultural workers, make improvements to the H-2A visa program, and ensure security by requiring that agricultural employers participate in the E-Verify program.
“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 and CEO of the 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.”
Many in the produce industry stand in favor of the new legislation and consider it to be an important step forward toward addressing the challenges faced by the fresh produce industry with regards to labor availability.
“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses two critical needs for American agriculture—to retain existing, experienced workers, and to ensure a reliable future flow of guest workers,” Western Growers President and CEO, Tom Nassif, commented. “Furthermore, after a satisfactory transition period, the bill includes E-Verify for agricultural employers, demonstrating the commitment our industry has made toward a long-term labor solution.”
Nassif expressed gratitude to the two Representatives proposing the bill for addressing the current agricultural labor crisis in a bipartisan manner and putting focus on the needs of those in the industry.
“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,” Nassif said in a press release, which can be read in its entirety here.
California Citrus Mutual was supportive of the legislation as well, seeing the move as a step toward securing a legal workforce now and in the future, while also providing security and stability to its employees.
"This legislation is critical to the sustainability of the fresh produce industry and our continued ability to grow fresh and healthy citrus products in California,” said Casey Creamer, President of California Citrus Mutual, in a press release. “The existing system is out-of-date and does not meet the needs of employers or employees. We must put aside political differences and create a reasonable solution. California Citrus Mutual remains committed to working with our partners, Representative Lofgren, and members of Congress to resolve outstanding concerns and reach a deal that can supported in the United States Senate and signed by the President.”
AndNowUKnow will continue to report on this legislation as it unfolds.