April 26, 2021

House Approves Ag Labor Bill, Sent to Senate

House Approves Ag Labor Bill, Sent to Senate

The United States House of Representatives voted 274-174 to advance the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The Act is said to stabilize the agriculture sector and preserve rural heritage by ensuring that farmers can meet their labor needs in the future. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).

H.R. 1603 will establish a program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy, reform the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers while ensuring critical protections for workers, and focus on modifications to make the program more responsive and user-friendly for employers and provides access to the program for industries with year-round labor needs.

“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But many of them do so while living and working in a state of uncertainty and fear, which has only been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lofgren. “Stabilizing the workforce will protect the future of our farms and our food supply. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act accomplishes this by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers and updating and streamlining the H-2A temporary worker visa program while ensuring fair wages and working conditions for all workers. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both Houses of Congress to get this bipartisan legislation that serves the best interests of our country to the President’s desk.”

The bill creates a program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment by providing a process for farmworkers to pursue Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status, a temporary status for those who have worked at least 180 days in agriculture over the last 2 years. CAW status can be renewed indefinitely with continued farm work of at least 100 days per year.

“American agriculture is desperately in need of a legal, reliable workforce. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a solution – negotiated in good faith by agriculture groups, labor representatives, and Members on both sides of the aisle – that will do just that,” said Newhouse. “As one of only a few farmers in Congress, I understand the invaluable contributions our producers and farmworkers make to our nation’s unparalleled agriculture industry. Bringing our agriculture labor program into the 21st century is absolutely critical as we work to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and ensure a stable food supply chain in the United States. We must act now to provide certainty to farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers across the country.”