Committee approval of an agricultural immigration bill marks an important step for California farmers, their employees and their families, the California Farm Bureau Federation said.
CFBF President Jamie Johansson welcomed Thursday’s action by the House Judiciary Committee on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019. The committee approved the bill by voice vote, ahead of an expected final vote Friday to send it to the full U.S. House of Representatives.
“We’ve overcome a lot of obstacles to get here, and there’s still a long way to go, but we’re encouraged by the prospects for reform and improvement of immigration laws that would benefit agricultural employees and their families,” said Johansson, who attended the committee hearing in Washington, D.C.
Introduced by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 would improve agricultural visa programs and accommodate immigrant agricultural employees already in the United States, while enhancing border security.
“This bipartisan bill will benefit everyone involved in agriculture. That’s why more than 300 agricultural groups and companies from across the country signed a letter this week urging congressional leaders to move the bill through the House,” Johansson said.
The legislation would improve the existing H-2A agricultural visa program and would allow immigrant agricultural employees already in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment.
“As Thanksgiving nears, there’s no more meaningful way to recognize the contribution agricultural employees make to our food supply and rural communities than to deal fairly with immigrant employees and their immediate families,” Johansson said. “We urge Speaker Pelosi to bring the Farm Workforce Modernization Act to a vote as soon as possible.”
Western Growers reacts
With the bill's advancement, Western Growers President & CEO Tom Nassif issued the following statement:
“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 and Congressman Dan Newhouse, and the bipartisan group of legislators who have negotiated and supported this bill.
“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 to Speaker to bring this bill before the House floor for a vote as soon as possible.”