According to POLITICO, House lawmakers today will unveil a bipartisan ag labor package that would offer a path to legalization for farmworkers and expand the H-2A visa program for foreign labor.
It’s a long shot for passage, but the sponsors are hoping their approach garners support from both parties as well as agriculture and labor advocates. MWFPA is reviewing this legislation, but has supported past efforts to reform the H-2A program which is expensive, flawed, and plagued with red tape..
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented farmworkers who have been working in agriculture for at least two years and plan to continue in their jobs. However, it would also establish a mandatory E-Verify system nationwide for farm employers. While MWFPA has not opposed the E-Verify system, it advocates that any worker verification system not unduly burden employers, be properly funded, and have a high data integrity confidence factor.
For the ag industry, the bill would simplify the H-2A application process, cap wages for farmworkers and raise funding for USDA programs that support housing for laborers. And it aims to address the needs of dairy farmers and other producers who need year-round workers, by offering 40,000 extra green cards for agricultural labor and creating a capped program to grant three-year visas for workers in certain sectors like dairy.
The measure is sponsored Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.).