|Thanks to the American Dairy Coalition for their alert and information
Lawmakers Reintroduce “Farm Workforce Modernization Act” A temporary worker visa program for currently unauthorized farmworkers
|This agriculture reform bill was recently reintroduced in the House by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D- CA, and Dan Newhouse, R-WA. The bill will create a renewable visa program granting eligible workers Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status.
FARM WORKFORCE MODERNIZATION ACT
Title I. Earned Legal Status for Certified Agricultural Workers
This title establishes a program for agricultural workers in the United States (and their spouses and minor children) to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy. Applicants must show at least 180 days of agricultural employment over the last 2 years. The program will create Five-Year Renewable Visas.
Title II. Improving the H-2A Program
This title reforms the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers. The bill would focus on modifications to make the program more responsive and user-friendly for employers.
Wage Reform: The bill reforms H-2A wages to better reflect real-world wages while protecting against sudden wage increases that disrupt employer planning and operations:
Reducing Housing Costs: The bill improves the availability of farmworker housing while lowering employer costs related to providing such housing.
Filling Year-Round Labor Needs: The bill takes a two-pronged approach to meet year-round labor needs. Increased Access to Green Cards: The bill dedicates an additional 40,000 green cards per year for agricultural workers. These visas can be used by employers to sponsor workers to fill unmet permanent agricultural labor needs. The bill also creates an option for H-2A workers to apply directly after completing 10 years of H-2A work in the United States. These 40,000 green cards will go a long way to meeting year-round labor needs.
Temporary 3-Year Visas: In addition, the bill creates a new, capped program for employers seeking to bring in temporary workers to fill year-round needs. Although the program would be capped, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Labor would be able to increase visa caps if market conditions warrant such increases. Visas would be made available for both dairy and non-dairy needs. Title III. Mandatory E-Verify for the Agricultural Sector This title would establish a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment, serving as the last necessary piece to ensure a legal workforce for the sector. The system would only be made mandatory for the agricultural sector, with a structured phase-in and guaranteed due process for authorized workers who are incorrectly rejected by the system.
This bill previously passed in the House in 2019, but the Senate didn’t’ bring it up for consideration.