Produce groups praise committee passage of Farm Workforce Modernization Act |

Produce groups praise committee passage of Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The House Judiciary Committee today approved the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038) by voice vote, but the final outcome is unclear.

Western Growers, which represents farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, noted that the bill passed the committee by voice vote and that a recorded vote is expected to take place Thursday.

The markup on the workforce bill and several others was expected to continue this morning at 9 a.m. in Room 2121 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

“Western Growers applauds today’s passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the House Judiciary Committee. We thank the lead authors, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and the bipartisan group of legislators who have negotiated and supported this bill,” the organization said in a release.

“Throughout the U.S., agriculture is experiencing a critical shortage of labor that jeopardizes our ability to continue producing an abundant, safe and affordable domestic food supply. Securing a reliable and skilled workforce is critical to the future viability of America’s family farms. This bill does exactly that.

“By protecting existing, experienced farm workers and streamlining the agricultural guest worker program to provide a more accessible, predictable and flexible future flow of labor, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act contains real solutions to the labor crisis facing the industry.

“This bipartisan bill, which has 29 Democratic and 23 Republican co-sponsors, has been carefully crafted through a series of difficult stakeholder-driven negotiations, and has garnered the widespread support of nearly 300 agricultural organizations across the country, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and farm worker unions.

“While the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is not perfect, we remain committed to working through the legislative process to address our outstanding concerns, and encourage (the speaker) to bring this bill before the House floor for a vote as soon as possible,” Western Growers concluded.

United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel said, “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a testament to the tenacity of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to bring much needed reform to the agriculture industry. The sustainability of American agriculture is at stake if our labor situation is not addressed. It is imperative that the House act quickly to pass this legislation. This bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by nearly two dozen Republican members of Congress, demonstrating wide support. We believe a strong vote in the House will lead the way for the Senate to follow suit to finally address the labor crisis in American agriculture.”

The bill provides much needed reforms to secure a stable and legal workforce in agriculture, allowing current farm workers to attain legal status and reforming the H-2A guest worker program to ensure a future source of workers on American farms, United Fresh said.