Industry Associations Issue Statements on the Reintroduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act
UNITED STATES - After being originally passed in December 2019, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1537) has been reintroduced as a way to create workforce solutions for the United States agriculture industry. Receiving much industry support the last time the act was introduced, industry leaders continue to back the bipartisan legislature as it makes its appearance in Congress once again.
The act is being introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA), showing the bipartisan nature of the legislation. The Farm Workfoce Modernization Act will provide new pathways for undocumented farm workers to gain legal citizenship in the U.S., thereby continuing their integral role in the nation’s agricultural industry.
The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) was one of the associations to applaud the reintroduction of H.R. 1537, as California agriculture represents over $50 billion in production value and is a leader in the nation’s exports. Therefore, securing a reliable workforce in the state has remained a constant challenge, which could be overcome with the introduction of the act, according to a press release from the association.
CFFA President Ian LeMay commented on the recent reintroduction.
“The ability to have reliable, legal workforce represents one of most important steps forward our industry has made in over 30 years. H.R. 1537 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,” LeMay said. “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.”
Tom Stenzel, President of the United Fresh Produce Association also championed the reintroduction.
“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act introduced by Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) is a testament to the efforts the agriculture industry and our friends in labor and of course to the bipartisan members of Congress who are supporting this legislation,” Stenzel commented. “There remains work to be done to address our industry’s labor challenges, but this bill is an integral first step toward achieving our ultimate goal. United Fresh Produce Association and its members have pushed for this reform for many years and we look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to make it a reality.”
Additionally, Western Growers’ President and CEO Dave Puglia backed the reintroduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
“We appreciate the efforts of Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Dan Newhouse, and all of our congressional champions, to keep the agricultural labor crisis front and center in the debate over immigration reform. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which was passed with bipartisan support in the House in 2019, is the culmination of nearly a decade of negotiations between key stakeholders and represents an important first step toward resolving, once and for all, one of the biggest challenges facing American farmers,” Puglia stated.
He continued, stating that, “Two critical needs for agriculture are addressed in this legislation. First, it provides a mechanism to ensure that farming operations can retain existing, experienced workers. Secondly, the bill reforms the visa program to secure a reliable future flow of guest workers. Additionally, after a satisfactory transition period, it includes E-Verify for agricultural employers, demonstrating our industry’s commitment to a long-term labor solution.”
Puglia’s conclusion recognized the major step forward, but also detailed additional work needed.
“We recognize that there is more work to be done, but this marks a major step forward. The viability of family farms and rural communities across the country, as well as a safe and secure domestic food supply, requires an adequate workforce. We will continue working to advance this legislation and enlisting the support of problem-solving legislators of both parties in both houses as well as the Biden Administration this year,” he concluded.
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