The U.S. House late Wednesday passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by a vote of 260 to 165.
The 260 members who voted for it included 226 Democrats and 34 Republicans, while 161 Republicans, three Democrats and one independent voted against it. One Democrat voted present.
The legislation generally allows undocumented workers who have performed agricultural jobs over the past two years to receive legal status as certified agricultural workers, a status that may be extended as long as the worker continues to perform a specified level of agricultural work. After a specified number of years, the worker may apply for permanent lawful resident which does not require performance of agricultural work.
The legislation also modifies the H-2A guest worker program and requires E-verify for agriculture.
MWFPA has been supportive of making changes to the current agricultural guestworker program, which is expensive, flawed, and plagued with red tape. What is needed is legislation that will give agricultural producers and processors access to affordable, legal foreign workers. 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.