Ag Policy Blog

House Taking up Farm Labor Bill

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
The House of Representatives is taking up a bill that would overhaul the H-2A program. In a Georgia farm, workers sort through Vidalia onions. (DTN file photo)

The House of Representatives will consider the Farm Workforce Modernization Act this week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced late Friday.

Hoyer did not list a date for consideration of the bill, but the House Rules Committee has announced it will meet on Tuesday to consider it. That meeting will take place in Room H-213 of the Capitol and will not begin before 3:45 p.m., the Rules committee said on its website.

The bill is carefully crafted and negotiated to assure farmers an immigrant workforce while protecting farmworker rights.

The bill, sponsored by House Judiciary Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., passed the House Judiciary Committee with a 18-12 vote. A total of 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans sponsored it

In a summary, Lofgren and Newhouse said the bill will:

??? Establish a program for agricultural workers 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.

It is supported by more than 300 farm groups including the California Farm Bureau and the United Farm Workers.

But the American Farm Bureau Federation does not support it and wants changes “to ensure a fair and competitive wage rate and limitations on the use of federal courts to solve workplace grievances.”

The bill’s long-term fate is uncertain. In general liberal groups have opposed immigration bills that focus on one industry and are not comprehensive. The White House has also signaled that President Donald Trump does not support the bill as written.

-H. R. 5038 — Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019: https://www.congress.gov/…

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@njdc.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

(TN/)

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