Rep. Schrier, Bipartisan Colleagues Unveil the Farm Workforce Modernization Act

October 30, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) joined bipartisan colleagues, including Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris-Rogers, to introduce the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which was negotiated over several months with input from agricultural stakeholders and labor organizations, makes meaningful reforms to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically designed for the nation’s agricultural sector.

“I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation to address current and future needs of agriculture in Washington State while improving job opportunities and security for farm workers,” said Rep. Schrier. Labor plays a crucial role in our country’s agriculture economy because, as we all know, crops don’t wait, and millions of dollars are at stake. As I have toured farms and orchards in my district, finding enough reliable workers is the main issue that comes up. This bill is a good first step towards maintaining the stable, accessible labor pool that the American agriculture economy relies on.”

The bill will establish a program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy. Further, it will reform the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers. The bill focuses on modifications to make the program more responsive and user-friendly for employers and provides access to the program for industries with year-round labor needs. Lastly, it will create mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment with a structured phase-in and guaranteed due process for authorized workers who are incorrectly rejected by the system.

“The legislation points the way towards achieving many of the long-standing immigration reform goals of NCFC and others in agriculture. While there are provisions that are problematic, on balance it is a good starting point for the legislative process. It provides an opportunity to obtain an earned legal status for the current workforce in agriculture; it codifies many of the reforms that the Trump Administration has made to the current H-2A program and provides some certainty over labor costs; and it authorizes a limited number of year-round visas for those farmers with year-round labor needs, such as those in dairy and livestock,” said Chuck Conner, President & CEO of National Coalition of Farm Cooperatives.