The Farm Workforce Modernization Act has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives through a vote of 247-174. Advocates of the bill are hopeful that the Senate will begin work on the legislation. It was previously never taken up by the Senate after the legislation passed in the House back in 2019. Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia described the bill as being “critically important” for providing labor stability in agriculture.
“This bill’s not perfect. It’s the product of a negotiation that’s gone on for many, many years between agriculture and labor advocates and others,” said Puglia. “But because of that hard negotiation we were able to reach agreement on different provisions that govern wages for H-2A workers, the number of H-2A workers that come in, whether they come in permanently, legal status for our long-time existing workers so they aren’t in fear of deportation. We can finally have some stability in our workforces.”
Passage of the farm workforce bill has received significant support from a number of industry organizations including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. The legislation is being heralded as an appropriate response to the labor issues the agricultural sector is faced with. Puglia praised the bill as not being too comprehensive to maintain the necessary bipartisan support to be viable.
“We have a surgical approach to an issue that’s been well defined; a problem that’s very well accepted by most Americans,” said Puglia. “We are dependent on foreign labor and have been for many, many decades and will continue to be. If we want to have American agriculture sustain itself and continue feeding ourselves and the world, we have to pass legislation like this to finally bring some common sense to our chronic labor shortages.”
The Biden Administration has made immigration reform a top priority, issuing support for the passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Industry members are now pushing for swift passage in the Senate. “We’ll need a future full of labor and that’s where improvements to the H-2A program had to be made and that’s captured well in this bill,” Puglia explained.
Listen to Puglia’s full comments.