Central Washington Producers Join Newhouse in Calling on the Senate to Pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) hosted a press conference with Central Washington producers and agriculture industry representatives to urge the Senate to pass his landmark legislation, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, and enact agriculture labor reformbefore the end of the year.
“Our entire food production system is at risk,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Let’s stop waiting and start acting. Today I call on my Senate colleagues to move the Farm Workforce Modernization Act forward so we can finally secure our border, lower food costs, and provide a lasting solution for our farmers and ranchers.”
Rep. Newhouse was joined by Central Washington producers Kristin Kershaw of Superfresh Growers, Tony Freytag of Crunchpak, Jason Sheehan of J&K Dairy, and Mark Powers of Northwest Horticultural Council.
“The Central Washington farmer really understands what it means to have job vacancies. Each year, thousands of productive acres of farmland are taken out of production and many crops are unable to be harvested due to higher labor costs, unavailable labor, and increasing regulatory burdens,” said Kristin Kershaw. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act gives us an opportunity to change that, reduce food waste, and secure our nation’s food future.”
“Today, produce prices are up anywhere from 10 to 17 percent over the past year and farmers of all sizes are going out of business,” said Tony Freytag. “Congressman Newhouse is making a very simple request. And that’s for the Senate to work on the bill, because we all will feel the effects if nothing happens.”
“Like all of agriculture, we are in a shortage of good employees to be able to produce the nutritious products that we need to every day. Dairy operates 24/7, 365 through every holiday there is, and up to this point the dairy community has not had the ability to use the H-2A program because it’s not been opened up to us. What’s incredibly important about the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is it gives us access to more employees,” said Jason Sheehan. “Now is our chance for agriculture to step up and do what needs to be done to provide not only a steady workforce but that leads to food on the shelves and taking care of our nation because the last thing we want to rely on is food from other countries.”
“The tree fruit growers are leaving the business at an alarming rate, and the rapid increase in labor costs are the primary factor driving that change,” said Mark Powers. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would create certainty for growers to operate their business and stay in business. With more and more growers exiting the business every day, they need the Senate to pass their version of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act before the end of the year.”
Farmers and ranchers across the United States are in desperate need of a high-quality, reliable workforce, and the current H-2A guestworker program needs meaningful, bipartisan reform. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which passed the House for the second time in March 2021, creates a workforce solution for America’s agriculture industry.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act 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.
By creating a secure, reliable agriculture labor program, this legislation removes opportunities to work illegally in the United States, strengthens our border security, lowers food costs for Americans, and ensures we have a stable, legal workforce for our farms and ranches for years to come.