Newhouse, Upton join bipartisan group to propose sweeping farm workforce bill

U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Fred Upton (R-MI) joined a bipartisan contingent of more than 40 lawmakers to introduce comprehensive legislation aimed at building a legal and reliable pool of agricultural workers in the United States.

“Our nation’s agriculture industry is diverse and flourishing, but producers are in desperate need of a legal and reliable workforce,” Rep. Newhouse said. “This bill is the solution our agricultural industry needs.”

Reps. Upton and Newhouse on Oct. 30 signed on as original cosponsors of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 4916, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to help agricultural workers earn legal status through continued employment, improve the H-2A visa program, and establish a mandatory E-Verify process. The bill was introduced with the strong bipartisan support of 24 Democrats and 20 Republicans.

“As I have listened to local farmers across southwest Michigan and the nation, labor shortages are one of the most significant challenges they face year after year,” Rep. Upton said. “American farmers feed the world, and for our farms to effectively produce quality agricultural products, we need to ensure there is a reliable workforce for all farms. That means we need real ag labor reform now that is fair and actually works for all concerned, including growers, producers, workers, and consumers.”

If enacted, H.R. 4916 would create year-round access to the H-2A program for dairy and other agricultural sectors that face labor shortages and have been unable to utilize the program, according to a one-page summary of the bill provided by the lawmakers.

Additionally, the bill would establish a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment with a structured phase-in and guaranteed due process, among numerous other provisions, according to the summary.

“When I speak to farmers and ranchers across the country, labor is often their number one concern,” Rep. Newhouse said. “As a third-generation farmer, I understand the invaluable contributions made by farmworkers to American agriculture, and we must modernize our guestworker program to work for farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers in the 21st Century.”

H.R. 4916 has garnered support from almost 250 agriculture groups and labor organizations.