The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which is bipartisan legislation and seeks solutions to help farm workers and the agriculture industry, passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 18.
H.R. 1603 Rep. Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the legislation alongside Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to safeguard a legal and reliable workforce for American agriculture.
“At its core. The bill appears to put us in the right direction to having a stable and predictable workforce,” Sean Gilbert of Gilbert Fruit said during an interview on Monday, March 22.
The bill now heads to the Senate where both sides will look to discuss, debate and possibly amend the legislation before sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
“By creating a viable and desperately needed agricultural labor program, we are removing opportunities to work illegally in the United States, strengthening our border security, and ensuring we have a reliable, legal workforce for our farms and ranches for years to come,” Newhouse said.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act’s goal is to provide a path to legal status for farm workers and updating and streamlining the H-2A temporary worker visa program, while ensuring fair wages and working conditions for all workers.
“We use H-2A workers and it’s an incredibly valuable resource, but its procedures and processes need updating,” Gilbert explained.
There has been changes or proposals on the table for years, which a lot of involved parties recognize need to happen on both sides of the aisle but because of the political gridlock, it’s been hard to get legislation through, he noted.
“In my career, we haven’t gotten this close to a meaningful bill for immigration reform for our industry, Gilbert expressed. “It’s pretty amazing that it’s at this stage right now.”