WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill aimed at providing a compromise solution for the H-2A agricultural guest worker program has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-4th District, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-5th District, are among the sponsors, who include 24 Democrats and 20 Republicans.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which was negotiated over several months with comments from agricultural stakeholders and labor organizations, makes reforms to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program designed for the nation’s agricultural sector, said Newhouse’s office.
“When I speak to farmers and ranchers across the country, labor is often their No. 1 concern,” said Newhouse. “Our nation’s agriculture industry is diverse and flourishing, but producers are in desperate need of a legal and reliable workforce.
“As a third-generation farmer, I understand the invaluable contributions made by farmworkers to American agriculture, and we must modernize our guest worker program to work for farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers in the 21st century.”
He said the bill “is the solution our agricultural industry needs.”
The bill has garnered support from nearly 250 agriculture groups and labor organizations.
The bill would:
-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.