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Upton celebrates passage of bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act

Legislation will help address the shortage of available agriculture workers

Washington, D.C., December 11, 2019 | Josh Paciorek (202-225-3761)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today voted for and the House passed bipartisan legislation that aims to help build a legal and reliable workforce for our nation’s agriculture community. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act 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.

Upton was an original cosponsor of the legislation, which was introduced by U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA). The bill now advances to the U.S. Senate.

Upton spoke on the House floor earlier today in support of the legislation.

“Our farmers in southwest Michigan – who help to literally feed the world – have made clear to me that labor shortages are one of the biggest obstacles they face year after year. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a solution to that challenge,” Upton said. “For our ag sector to remain the envy of the world, we need real ag labor reform that is fair for workers and growers and results in a reliable workforce. I’m proud that my colleagues in the House came together to pass this bipartisan legislation that will make a real positive impact on our ag industry, and I hope to see it advance through the Senate and be signed by the President.”

The bill will:

  • Establish a program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.
  • Reform the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers. The bill focuses on modifications to make the program more responsive and user-friendly for employers and provides access to the program for industries with year-round labor needs.
  • Establish mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment with a structured phase-in and guaranteed due process for authorized workers who are incorrectly rejected by the system.

The bipartisan effort was negotiated over eight months with input from agricultural stakeholders and labor organizations and was introduced with the support of 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans. More than 300 agriculture organizations nationwide sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging their support.

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.

To learn more about H.R. 5038, the Farm workforce Modernization Act, click here.


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