Yesterday, March 18th, the House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 247-174. The United Fresh Produce Association and the US Apple Association both applaud this move.
“Today, the House of Representatives took an important step towards reforming our agricultural labor system by passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H. R. 1603). The legislation will stabilize our current workforce and make improvements to ensure that a future workforce is available to meet the growing needs of the fresh produce industry."
"The strong support for this measure would not have been possible without the leadership of Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA). Their efforts, aided by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, made today’s passage of the bill possible. Now our efforts turn to the Senate where we will work to further improve the bill and garner similar bipartisan support for this legislation.”
On March 17th, 350 United Fresh members sent a joint letter to the House leadership encouraging passage of this legislation that defends the current workforce and expands opportunities for foreign workers, while ensuring that American workers will always have the first opportunity to fill the needs of farmers. This letter complements an agriculture industry letter sent earlier this week to Capitol Hill.
Apple growers welcome more stable workforce
“We commend Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., for their commitment to this meaningful ag labor reform,” said USApple President and CEO Jim Bair. “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.”
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 not only apple growers, but for all farmers who depend on immigrant labor. Because of the labor intensity required in the apple industry, USApple has long been a leading proponent of stabilizing and legalizing a reliable workforce.
The organization noted with appreciation that most representatives from apple states voted in favor of the bill.
As the legislation moves to the Senate, USApple will work with its Senate champions to seek further improvements to the H-2A program.