Dec 12, 2019
Ag groups welcome House passage of Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act Dec. 11, voting for a measure that would give undocumented farmworkers a pathway to permanent residence.

“This is a chance to solve a problem for America,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who spearheaded the bill.

The last time congress addressed agricultural labor was in 1986.

“This bill…does stabilize the workforce,” said Lofgren. “We have farmworkers who have been here a very long time without their papers, living in fear and in some cases, being arrested and deported. We need to allow them to get an agricultural worker visa that is temporary and renewable so they can do the work we need them to do and their employers need them to do.”

If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would also change regulations surrounding H-2A temporary farmworkers, shifting how salaries are determined and adding new, temporary visas with a longer working period.

Grower advocates say this would relieve them of an unfair monetary burden while providing them with year-round labor.

Groups urge Senate action

“With the pending debate on H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, on the House floor, a bipartisan group of legislators have demonstrated the courage and civility that are required to address the most intractable challenge facing American agriculture – securing an adequate supply of workers to perform the skilled labor that is required on farms across the country. The farm and agriculture groups issuing this statement extend their sincerest appreciation to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Congressman Dan Newhouse and all of the representatives who have boldly negotiated and supported this bill.

Nearly 300 agricultural organizations representing the geographic and commodity diversity of our nation’s farmers support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a testament to the critical labor shortage that jeopardizes our collective ability to continue producing an abundant, safe and affordable domestic food supply.

At a time when the viability of America’s family farms is also being tested by ongoing trade disputes with China and other significant global trading partners, we call on the Senate to, in good faith, begin the work to craft a bipartisan measure that embodies the same spirit as the House effort. We encourage our Senate leaders, Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer, to emulate the bipartisan effort demonstrated in the House to mutually resolve any remaining stakeholder concerns, making the bill available for conference and eventual signature by President Trump.

While we understand the president is working on a merit-based system for comprehensive immigration reform, the agricultural portion of immigration reform has historically been negotiated separately. This is because it has been an established fact that foreign workers are not displacing Americans on the farm, and their work here enables agricultural production to stay in America rather than going to other countries. For this reason, this bill does not interfere with the Administration’s broader plan for overhauling the immigration system.

As an industry, we reiterate our commitment to working with Congress and the administration to move forward a solution that resolves, once and for all, the American agricultural labor crisis.


Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association

National Council of Agricultural Employers

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

National Farmers Union

National Milk Producers Federation

National Potato Council

United Fresh Produce Association

U.S. Apple Association

Western Growers Association”

NCAE applauds bipartisan House passage of HR 5038

The  U.S .House of Representatives passed HR 5038 with bipartisan support. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act now moves to the Senate for its consideration of the measure.

“The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) applauds the Democrats and Republicans in the House who came together to move the legislation forward and over to the other Chamber.  Although imperfect, the advancement of this measure is historic,” said Michael Marsh, president and CEO of NCAE.  “We look forward to working with Senate members to craft legislation in a more ag employer friendly environment.”

Marsh noted that the unyielding efforts of Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-California, and Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, were instrumental in moving the act forward in a bipartisan manner.

“It is far too rare in today’s partisan Congress that we witness the leadership displayed this evening on the House floor in moving this bill,” said Marsh.  “Hopefully, we will see the same level of commitment in the Senate to design legislation to bring relief to America’s hard-working farm and ranch families.  They are the backbone of our nation and deserve our best efforts.”

Agriculture has been struggling with a years-long labor shortage.  Stepped up immigration enforcement in the last three Administrations has led to anxiety that existing systems will leave crops to rot in the fields and farmers and ranchers holding the bag.

“Moving this bill forward in the process is a step in the right direction and we are committed to working with our partners to design a workable solution,” said Marsh.  “We’re far from being done and we look forward to the challenge ahead.  NCAE recognizes this legislation is not perfect, but the fact that the bill has moved will allow us the opportunity to make further improvements to the legislation.”

NCAE is the national trade association focusing on agricultural labor issues from the employer’s viewpoint.

United Fresh supports passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The United Fresh Produce Association applauds passage of the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act approved by the House of Representatives today by a vote of 260 to 165.

“For too long, the fresh produce industry has suffered under a system that fails to meet the labor needs of our industry,” said United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel. “Passage of this legislation represents an important step in ending decades of uncertainty for growers of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’d like to personally thank Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-California, and Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, who spearheaded the bipartisan negotiations that led to this agreement. United Fresh looks forward to similarly working with bipartisan members in the Senate to build on the work of their House colleagues and craft legislation that deserves our support.”

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act provides much needed reforms to the H-2A program by expanding access to year-round industries, brings certainty to wage costs that have ballooned in recent years and provides a pathway to earned legal status to the current undocumented workforce.

Founded in 1904, the United Fresh Produce Association brings together companies across every segment of the fresh produce supply chain, including growers, shippers, fresh cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and

USApple Applauds House Passage of Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The U.S. Apple Association today applauded the House of Representatives for passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 260-165.  The organization noted with appreciation that most representatives from apple states voted in favor of the bill. 

The legislation includes provisions to stabilize the current domestic workforce by creating an earned legalization process, as well as improvements to the current H-2A program including wage relief. 

“We commend Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., for their commitment to this meaningful ag labor reform,” said USApple President and CEO Jim Bair. “The legislation will stabilize the current agricultural workforce by creating a process for them to gain work authorization to continue working in agriculture. It also brings needed modernization and cost containment to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program.”

Each year growers across the country face uncertainty as to whether there will be sufficient labor to harvest the crop. The current system causes an unstable situation for not only apple growers, but for all farmers who depend on immigrant labor. Because of the labor intensity required in the apple industry, USApple has long been a leading proponent of stabilizing and legalizing a reliable workforce.

Western Growers Statement on House Passage of Farm Workforce Modernization Act

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.”

 House passage of immigration bill heartens California Farm Bureau

Today’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.” 

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 34,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 5.6 million Farm Bureau members.

Farm worker advocates hailed passage yesterday by the House of Representatives of H.R. 5038, the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019. This bill is the result of months of difficult negotiations between Members of Congress from both parties, the United Farm Workers, UFW Foundation, Farmworker Justice and most of the nation’s major grower associations. This is the first time in decades that the full House, under either party, has enacted an agricultural labor immigration bill. It would not have happened without the dedication of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Also deserving credit are Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the chief Republican negotiators—Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

United Farm Workers voice support for legislation

“Today’s House vote for bipartisan legislation letting undocumented farm workers and their immediate family members earn legal status is the result of the tenacious leadership farm workers showed after traveling across the country to lobby on Capitol Hill,” said UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres. “Legislators have voted in favor of protecting the people whose hands harvest the fruits and vegetables offered in Congressional buildings’ cafeterias and all of America’s kitchen tables. Whether it is through organizing in Congressional districts or walking the halls of Congress, farm workers are a force that deserves recognition during the nine months it took to craft and get the legislation through the House.”

“Through their hard work, farm workers have earned the right to a stable future in the United States,” said UFW President Teresa Romero. “We feel confident as the measure moves to the Senate and look forward to partnering with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), who are strong champions for farm workers.”

The farm worker advocates also recognized the key roles played by Democratic Reps. Jimmy Panetta, Linda Sanchez, Salud Carbajal, Norma Torres, Karen Bass, Marcia Fudge, Veronica Escobar, Sylvia Garcia, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Lou Correa, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Juan Vargas, TJ Cox, Judy Chu, Collin Peterson, Maxine Waters, Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Raul Grijalva, Tony Cardenas, Joaquin Castro, Marcy Kaptur, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Judiciary and Rules committees, and the bill’s 62 bipartisan cosponsors.

Farm workers from California and Washington who traveled to Washington DC were at the vote and expressed excitement and hope to see the bill pass the House.

Current Issue

FGN December 2021 issue cover

Troon Vineyard makes wine with minimalist approach

Wafler Farms: family, fruit, nursery

MSU Extension educator relishes new opportunity

Reduced insecticide, IPM programs are key

Blueberry group energized after planning effort, referendum OK

Cyber world calls for diligent IT protection

Mating disruption: Certifications, trials among updates from companies

Protein-based biologicals among trends in IPM

Farm Market column: Worker numbers dependent on market performance

National Council of Agricultural Employers column: Farm, ranch community exudes essence of America

see all current issue »

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


FGN December 2021 issue cover
Get one year of Fruit Growers News in both print and digital editions for only $15.50.

Interested in reading the print edition of Fruit Growers News?

Subscribe Today »

Be sure to check out our sister sites:
website development by deyo designs