The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the House of Representatives with a strong bipartisan vote of 260-165. The legislation includes provisions to stabilize the current domestic workforce by creating an earned legalization process, as well as improvements to the current H-2A program including wage relief. Each year growers across the country face uncertainty as to whether there will be sufficient labor to harvest the crop. The current system causes an unstable situation for all farmers who depend on immigrant labor, but this new act should provide relief and stability.
The passing of the bill is applauded by many associations, among which are the U.S. Apple Association, the United Fresh Produce Association, the California Fresh Fruit Association, and the Western Growers Association.
USApple President and CEO Jim Bair said: “The legislation will stabilize the current agricultural workforce by creating a process for them to gain work authorization to continue working in agriculture. It also brings needed modernization and cost containment to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program.”
United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel said: “For too long, the fresh produce industry has suffered under a system that fails to meet the labor needs of our industry. Passage of this legislation represents an important step in ending decades of uncertainty for growers of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’d like to personally thank Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA) who spearheaded the bipartisan negotiations that led to this agreement. United Fresh looks forward to similarly working with bipartisan members in the Senate to build on the work of their House colleagues and craft legislation that deserves our support.”
The California Fresh Fruit Association President Ian LeMay stated, “The ability to have reliable, legal workforce represents one of most important steps forward our industry has made in over 30 years. The passage of H.R. 5038 will address critical needs within agriculture by providing a pathway to legal status for current undocumented employees, along with reform to the current H-2A program. Our members look forward to continuing to provide the world’s freshest fruit to consumers here domestically and around the world.”
“There is no doubt the agricultural industry has waited many years for an immigration reform bill to address the labor concerns amongst the many different commodities produced here domestically so that it can continue to provide the nation and world with safe and reliable food supply long into the future,” LeMay stated. “H.R. 5038 demonstrates that bipartisanship still exists, that when faced with a common challenge we can still rise to the occasion and do the right thing.”
Western Growers Association's CEO Tom Nassif stated: “With the passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, another hurdle in the race to save America’s family farms has been cleared. But the race is far from over. Both the Senate and President Trump must be willing to take the political stand that is required to ensure the continued production of an abundant, safe and affordable domestic food supply. Our farmers are depending on the present actions of Congress and the Administration to make possible the future viability of the agriculture industry.
“Granted, the bill is not perfect. No piece of legislation ever is. However, the need to secure an adequate, reliable and skilled workforce for U.S. agriculture cannot be overstated. The farm labor crisis is real and crippling, and the demand to provide a workable legislative solution is immediate and critical, which is why we urge the Senate and President Trump to engage in the legislative process to improve the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, adding those amendments that are necessary to secure the mutual support of Congress and the Administration.”