Farm Workforce Modernization Act

December 12, 2019

Last month, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced a bipartisan guestworker/H-2A reform bill, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. On November 21, the bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on an 18-12 party-line vote. The Rules Committee held a meeting on December 10, and the bill is expected to be sent to the House floor for a vote on December 12. UEP has expressed support for the bill and worked closely with Congress to ensure egg producers’ priorities were preserved.

The bill provides significant improvements to the H-2A program by simplifying the application process, modernizing recruitment, stabilizing the agricultural workforce, and providing Certified Agricultural Workers (CAW) the opportunity to apply for a green card. The bill includes language defining the applicable workers as those involved in all branches of farming, like dairying, growing, raising livestock and poultry, and any practices performed by a farm or farmer related to such farming operations. The bill also extends the definition to cover workers in processing and market preparation.

In addition to modernizing the H-2A program, the bill would also establish a program for agricultural workers to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.

While much of the bill supports UEP’s position on workforce modernization, the bill does contain a concerning position that establishes a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system. The system would only be made mandatory for the agricultural sector and would include a phase-in and guaranteed due process for authorized workers that may be incorrectly rejected, while protecting employers who are inadvertently harmed while implementing the new system.