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US Senate urged to pass Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The bill, which has passed in the House, would reform the agricultural guest worker visa program, among other things.

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Bill would reform agricultural guest worker visa program

Some U.S. House Republicans, along with agriculture groups, have urged the Senate to pass the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would reform the agricultural guest worker visa program.

The House passed the bill (H.R. 1603) in early 2021 and the Senate has been working on its version.

According to the website for Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), the bill 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.
  • Reform the H2A 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.

β€œTo keep our families fed and our country running, many of our producers rely on the H2A program for labor, but the program is burdensome and the application process doesn’t work for farmers or farmworkers,” Newhouse said at a recent event.

β€œThe legislation streamlines the existing H2A program and establishes a new employment- and merit-based program to ensure that not only are agriculture workers in the United States legally, but that they remain law-abiding and continue to contribute to our farms, ranches, local communities, and economies,” he added.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), for one, has been seeking reforms to the H2A visa program as one of its top legislative priorities. Because pork producers – and others – are largely reliant on foreign farm workers, NPPC seeks reforms to the H2A visa program so that it can be applied to nonseasonal livestock agriculture, instead of only seasonal work.

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