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Upton, lawmakers introduce Farm Workforce Modernization Act

Bipartisan legislation aims to address labor shortages facing American agriculture industry

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Washington, October 30, 2019 | Josh Paciorek (202-225-3761) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today joined with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, landmark legislation which aims to address the shortage of workers available in the U.S. agriculture industry by helping build a legal and reliable workforce.

This bipartisan bill - introduced by U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA)– would provide agricultural workers an opportunity to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment, improve the H-2A visa program, and establish a mandatory E-Verify for the agriculture industry.

Under the legislation, a new stringent employment-based program would be created for our current agricultural workforce, requiring significant past and future work commitments, to ensure the stability of American agriculture.

Furthermore, as part of its improvements to the H-2A visa program, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act creates year-round access to the H-2A program for dairy and other agricultural sectors that are facing labor shortages but have been unable to utilize the program. Without this legislation, year-round agriculture does not have access to a legal immigrant workforce.

“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,” Upton said. “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.”

“For more than three decades our agriculture labor laws have failed to address the needs of American farmers  – we are now on the cusp of changing that, thanks to leaders like Fred Upton in Congress,” Jim Byrum, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, said. “Farms across our state and around the country face labor shortages every year. The legislation introduced today is a common-sense, bipartisan solution to make sure our farmers, growers, and producers have the workforce they need year-round.”

“Fred Upton has supported ag labor reform efforts for many years, and we are pleased he is supporting the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by cosponsoring the legislation,” Sheila Burkhardt, Senior Director of Member and Governor Relations at the Michigan Milk Producers Association, said. “This bill helps address the year-round needs of dairy farmers and workers, something that’s greatly needed and long overdue. We appreciate Congressman Upton’s understanding of the need to address this issue for the dairy industry.”

“The U.S. Apple Association applauds Fred Upton for his support of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act,” said USApple President and CEO Jim Bair. “This meaningful agriculture labor reform will greatly benefit the U.S. apple industry, which relies heavily on foreign born labor.”

In July 2019, Upton visited three farms in southwest Michigan - Russell Costanza Farms, Hood Dairy Farms, and Gibson Farms – and heard from farmers directly about a number of the challenges they are facing, including the shortage of available workers.

For more information on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, click here.


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