Newhouse joins hundreds of supporters in urging House passage of farming workforce bill

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), along with more than 300 agriculture groups, urged U.S. House leadership to quickly approve bipartisan legislation addressing America’s farming workforce shortage.

“As foreign producers take advantage of our labor shortage and gain market share, America will export not only our food production but also thousands of these farm-dependent jobs,” Rep. Newhouse and the stakeholders wrote in a Nov. 18 letter sent to House leaders. “Securing a reliable and skilled workforce is essential, not only for the agriculture industry but for the U.S. economy as a whole.”

The congressman and the groups urged swift action on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, H.R. 5038, which Rep. Newhouse introduced on Nov. 12 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

“The support and guidance of agricultural stakeholders and industry groups was absolutely vital as we negotiated and introduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Now, as the bill continues to move through Congress, I am grateful these groups are stepping up to let House leadership know how important this bipartisan effort is for farmers across the United States who are facing a critical labor shortage.”

H.R. 5038 contains numerous provisions related to alien farmworkers, including provisions establishing a certified agricultural worker (CAW) status and changing the H-2A temporary worker program, according to the congressional record summary.

If enacted, the bill specifically 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, and reform the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers, according to a one-page bill summary provided by Rep. Newhouse’s office.

“The House must pass legislation that preserves agriculture’s experienced workforce by allowing current farm workers to earn legal status,” wrote Rep. Newhouse and the agriculture groups. “For future needs, legislation must include an agricultural worker visa program that provides access to a legal and reliable workforce moving forward.”

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday marked up H.R. 5038, which also remains under consideration in three other House committees.