This week, members of the House of Representatives have reintroduced House Resolution 4319, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The act would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide terms and conditions for nonimmigrant workers in agriculture labor and services, and for other purposes.

California’s Zoe Lofgren is the original sponsor with nine cosponsors of the bill including Washington’s Dan Newhouse and Idaho’s Mike Simpson and other representatives from California, Texas, and New York. The legislation passed the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support in the 116th and 117th Congresses, makes meaningful reforms to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically designed for the nation’s agricultural sector.

Specifically the act: 

  • Reforms the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers. 
  • Establishes a program for agricultural workers in the United States to choose to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.
  • Focuses 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.

Representative Lofgren said, “In the past few years, we’ve seen labor shortages contribute to high food prices. If it wasn’t obvious before, the pandemic made clear that our country’s agricultural workforce rules are in dire need of reform. The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act stabilizes the workforce, which will protect the future of our farms and our food supply. It’s well-past time we get this legislation that serves the best interests of our country to the President’s desk.” 

“The top concern for farmers and ranchers in Central Washington and across the nation is labor, and the problem is only getting worse. As a third-generation farmer, I know first-hand how challenging it is for the agriculture industry to hire and retain labor so we can continue to feed America and the world,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is the solution to creating a secure, reliable agriculture labor program to provide certainty to our farmers and ranchers for a stable and legal workforce for years to come.” 

“There is perhaps no more important facet of immigration reform for Idaho and its economy than providing a stable and secure workforce for American agriculture. For anyone who doubts the importance of this issue, speak with the farmers and ranchers who feed and clothe our nation – labor is often their number one concern. It is time for Congress to address this critical issue, and I am proud to join with my colleagues once again in introducing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will do just that,” said Rep. Mike Simpson. 

Agriculture industry groups are also speaking in favor of the resolution and how it impacts their sectors of ag. 

Robert Guenther, Chief Public Policy Officer, International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) said, “IFPA members representing the entirety of the fresh produce and floral supply chains are desperate for reforms that will ensure that we have access to an affordable and reliable workforce. We applaud the authors of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act for once again stepping forward with a bipartisan solution that meets our most pressing labor needs including addressing the burdensome and expensive H-2A program. IFPA stands ready to work with Congressman Newhouse and his colleagues to pass the meaningful reforms we need to continue producing fruit, vegetable, and floral products here in America.” 

“We thank Representatives Lofgren and Newhouse for reintroducing their bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Ag workforce reform has been a top priority for America's dairy farmers and farmworkers for decades, and NMPF has been working for reform measures that better serve dairy. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act takes a significant step toward the improvements we need, and we applaud Reps. Lofgren, Newhouse, and the bill's other cosponsors for their continued leadership on this difficult issue. NMPF looks forward to continuing to work with these leaders and strengthen the legislation as it advances,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation. 

U.S. Apple Association President and CEO, Jim Bair said, “The reality is, access to a stable and reliable workforce is the only way we can continue as an industry. We commend Representative Newhouse for his tireless efforts to reform our broken agriculture labor system.” 


Source: Office of U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse


5 Reasons Why Washington State Is Better Than California

Looking for a lighthearted way to compare Washington and California? We've got you covered with this amusing list of 5 reasons why the Evergreen State takes the cake.


More From Washington State News