Bill important step towards stable, fair farm workforce
A group of bipartisan Representatives, led by U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA), introduced a bill to reform the agricultural labor system in the United States.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which is the product of negotiations between a diverse array of agricultural stakeholders and farmworker advocates, includes provisions to both ensure a legal and stable workforce for family farmers and ranchers as well as protect the health and safety of farmworkers.
More specifically, the bill would make it easier for farmers to hire workers by simplifying the H-2A application process and increasing the availability of green cards and visas for year-round workers.
It would also establish a program for workers who have been engaged in agricultural work for at least two years and plan to continue working in agriculture to earn legal status.
In response to an ongoing shortage of legal and qualified workers, National Farmers Union (NFU) members approved a special order of business calling on Congress to "stabilize the current agricultural workforce" through a "flexible, efficient, and compassionate agricultural worker visa program."
"It has become exceedingly difficult to find legal, qualified workers," said NFU Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Rob Larew in a statement. "Without a workforce, farmers aren't able to complete day-to-day work, forcing some to simply leave unharvested crops to rot in the field."
He added that the organization has concerns on the other side of the equation as well.
"A large number of farmworkers are immigrants, a population that has historically been underserved and overlooked. These hardworking individuals who help us put food on our tables deserve greater protections and a pathway to citizenship."
Because it would address the concerns of farmers and farmworkers, NFU supports the legislation and urged Congress to pass it swiftly.