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Strawberry harvest Tim Hearden
Workers harvest strawberries in Watsonville, Calif., in 2019.

Groups cheer House passage of farm labor bill

Bipartisan legislation would give undocumented farm laborers a path to citizenship, give farmers more access to visas

Wednesday’s vote by the House of Representatives to pass agricultural immigration legislation offers hope to farmers and their employees, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation. CFBF President Jamie Johansson said passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 represents a significant milestone.

“This is a huge step toward addressing problems that have harmed farmers, ranchers and their employees for more than a generation,” Johansson said.

He thanked the bill’s sponsors, Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and representatives from both parties who voted to advance the legislation to the Senate.

“Immigration issues are complex, but we thank the members of Congress who saw clearly the need to address current and future workforce needs for agricultural employers and employees,” Johansson said. “We look forward now to working with the Senate to finalize this long-needed set of reforms.”

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.

“Though we’re heartened by the House vote, we realize there’s a lot of work still needed to advance this legislation to the president,” Johansson said. “We will put in that work in order to deal fairly with the existing farm workforce and their immediate families, to make the H-2A guestworker program more valuable and flexible, and to ease the chronic employee shortages that have troubled so many farms and ranches around the country.”

Western Growers reacts

In response to passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, Western Growers President & CEO Tom Nassif issued the following statement:

“With today’s passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, another hurdle in the race to save America’s family farms has been cleared. Western Growers is grateful for the leadership exhibited by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Congressman Dan Newhouse, and the statesmanship demonstrated by the bipartisan group of legislators who sponsored and voted for the bill.

“But the race is far from over. Both the Senate and President Trump must be willing to take the political stand that is required to ensure the continued production of an abundant, safe and affordable domestic food supply. Our farmers are depending on the present actions of Congress and the Administration to make possible the future viability of the agriculture industry. 

“Agriculture has made its case for a narrow, surgical fix to the farm labor crisis. The rationale, that foreign hands will harvest our fruits and vegetables and perform many of the other skilled jobs required on American farms, has long been accepted on both sides of the aisle. The substance, maintaining the existing, experienced workforce while reforming the H-2A program for future workers, has been carefully crafted with the input and approval of virtually every key stakeholder. All that remains now is for the Senate and President Trump to act.

“Granted, the bill is not perfect. No piece of legislation ever is. However, the need to secure an adequate, reliable and skilled workforce for U.S. agriculture cannot be overstated. The farm labor crisis is real and crippling, and the demand to provide a workable legislative solution is immediate and critical, which is why we urge the Senate and President Trump to engage in the legislative process to improve the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, adding those amendments that are necessary to secure the mutual support of Congress and the Administration.”

Source: California Farm Bureau Federation, Western Growers, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 
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