Rep. Newhouse Urges Senate to Pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) hosted a press conference with the American Business Immigration Coalition Action (ABIC Action), National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), the International Fresh Produce Association, AmericanHort, and the National Council of Agricultural Employers to urge the Senate to pass his landmark legislation, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which is a strong workforce solution which will provide certainty to both farm owners and workers while combatting inflation.
Farmers and ranchers across the United States are in desperate need of a high-quality, reliable workforce, and the current H-2A guestworker program is in need of 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. By creating a viable and desperately-needed agriculture labor program, we are removing opportunities to work illegally in the United States, strengthening our border security, lowering food costs for Americans, and ensuring we have a reliable, legal workforce for our farms and ranches for years to come.
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.
Rep. Newhouse’s remarks as prepared can be found in full below:
Hello everyone, I’m Congressman Dan Newhouse from Washington State, and I’m here today to urge my colleagues to come together so we can finally fix our broken immigration system and combat the rising food costs facing every single American across the country.
Agriculture producers across the country are facing a labor shortage crisis, and I don’t use the word “crisis” lightly.
I’m a farmer myself, and I can tell you that it is truly a struggle to find workers. Without an adequate workforce, our crops will go unharvested, and our already-delicate food supply chain is placed further at risk.
Indeed, grocery bills are rising at the fastest pace we’ve seen in more than 40 years.
So, to keep our families fed and our country running, many of our producers rely on the H-2A program for labor, but the program is burdensome and the application process doesn’t work for farmers or farmworkers.
This puts our farmers in a tough spot.
While I see firsthand the struggle our Central Washington producers face, this isn’t just an issue affecting Central Washington, this is a nationwide issue.
That is why at the federal level, I introduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act—to address these labor shortages and ensure we have a legal and reliable workforce for all of agriculture.
The legislation streamlines the existing H-2A program and establishes a new employment- and merit-based program to ensure that not only are agriculture workers in the United States legally, but that they remain law-abiding and continue to contribute to our farms, ranches, local communities, and economies.
By ensuring a legal and reliable agricultural workforce, we can secure our food supply, strengthening our national security and averting disaster, reduce food costs for all Americans, and raise wages and reduce unemployment for ALL American workers by creating value-added, upstream jobs for Americans.
And this isn’t just rhetoric—we have the data to prove it. A new analysis from Texas A&M shows an increase in H-2A work visas decreases inflation and unemployment and increases wages and GDP.
So why are we still waiting?
It is past time we deliver solutions—not just empty promises—to our farmers and ranchers, to our farmworkers, and to all Americans who deserve a strong food supply chain.
And we already have that solution in the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
Together we can reform our broken immigration laws and ensure that those who wish to pursue a legal pathway or come to our country to contribute to our agriculture industry are able to do so.
Together we can protect our communities, strengthen our national security, and secure our southern border, but also recognize the contributions of immigrants and bolster our local economies, producers, and small businesses.
Together we can secure our food supply and ensure American families can afford the groceries they need.
And we can do that today.
If I can leave you with a message, I would impress upon you to reach out to your Senators and tell them you want to see the Farm Workforce Modernization Act move forward in the Senate.
Because together, we can finally secure our border, lower food costs, and provide a lasting solution for our farmers and ranchers.