Problem Solvers Caucus Endorses Bipartisan Agricultural Workers Bill

November 1, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – The House Problem Solvers Caucus, a group dedicated to finding bipartisan consensus on important issues, has endorsed a bill to extend earned visa status to individuals who can show they’ve been regularly employed as an agricultural laborer in the past two years.

The bill, H.R. 4916, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, specifically expands the H-2A foreign guest-worker program, so farmers and ranchers can easily hire workers.

The earned visa status would also apply to the spouses and minor children of the ag worker.

Problem Solvers Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and Fred Upton, R-Mich., led the effort to draft the legislation with Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., working closely with Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration panel, and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

They did so, they said, because they recognize that farmers and ranchers across the United States are in desperate need of a high-quality, reliable workforce, and that the current H-2A guest worker program is in need of meaningful, bipartisan reform. 

“For many years, farmers and farmworkers from the Central Coast to the center of America to the East Coast have faced continued uncertainty when it comes to agriculture labor.,” said Rep. Panetta.

“That is why for the past nine months, Democratic and Republican members of Congress, including members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, have been working tirelessly with farmers and farmworkers to craft a bipartisan solution,” he said. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a big, and bipartisan, step in the right direction that can provide certainty in our agriculture communities and confidence in our Congress.”

“I’m grateful for the Problem Solvers’ Caucus support for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, said Rep. Upton, the bill’s co-author. “As I have listened to local farmers across southwest Michigan and the nation, labor shortages are one of the most significant challenges they face year after year.” 

“American farmers feed the world, and for our farms to effectively produce quality agricultural products, we need to ensure there is a reliable workforce for all farms. That means we need real ag labor reform now that is fair and actually works for all concerned, including growers, producers, workers, and consumers,” he said.

The bill takes a two-pronged approach to meet year-round labor needs: creating a new, capped program for employers seeking to bring in temporary workers for year-round needs; and builds off current law dedicating an additional 40,000 employment-based green cards per year for agricultural workers. It also includes mandatory e-verify, new investments in farmworker housing, H-2A wage reform, and streamlined recruiting.

“My father was a farmworker, I spent summers working with him in the fields and I know firsthand how important the labor of those who harvest our food is to this nation,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Agriculture is the number one industry in my district and I have heard countless times from producers about the devastating labor shortage that stems from our broken immigration system. This groundbreaking bipartisan bill creates a lasting solution by providing earned legal status for our existing agricultural workforce, and modernizing the guest worker program to ensure long term industry sustainability that supports farmworkers and growers alike.”

Over 200 organizations have come out in support of this legislation.

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