Newhouse-supported farming workforce bill passes House Judiciary Committee

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 20 approved the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019, which is cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), in an 18-12 vote.

“This is an excellent step forward for a bipartisan bill that will be a building block to improve and modernize America’s agriculture industry,” Rep. Newhouse said.

The congressman is the lead original cosponsor of H.R. 5038, which contains numerous provisions related to alien farmworkers, including those to establish a certified agricultural worker (CAW) status and changing the H-2A temporary worker program, according to the congressional record bill summary. H.R. 5038 is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and 50 other cosponsors.

“Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers,” said Rep. Lofgren. “In addition, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses the nation’s future labor needs by modernizing an outdated system for temporary workers, while ensuring fair wages and workplace conditions.”

If enacted, H.R. 5038 would reform the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring worker protections and, among numerous provisions, would establish a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment that would include guaranteed due process for authorized workers who are incorrectly rejected by the system, according to a one-page bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“As the Farm Workforce Modernization Act continues to move through the legislative process, I am grateful for my colleagues, the farmers and farmworkers, and the organizations and stakeholders who worked to make this legislation a reality,” Rep. Newhouse said. “I am hopeful the legislation will now move quickly to the House floor, and I look forward to the continued opportunity to perfect the bill in the Senate.”

The measure remains under consideration in three other House committees.