The CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Barb Glenn, praised the passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by the U.S. House of Representatives saying, “Systems that establish a secure, reliable workforce for the agriculture, food and natural resource industries are necessary to our food supply.
“An estimated half of the U.S. agricultural workforce is foreign-born, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act will provide opportunities for these individuals to contribute to the U.S. agricultural economy and earn legal status through continued agricultural employment.”
The bill would make year-round H-2A visas available for the first time, an action that would be transformational for agricultural operations like dairies that currently rely only on temporary labor.
“We’re encouraged that the Farm Workforce Modernization Act assures a future workforce for agriculture by creating both a flexible and efficient visa program that retains current workers,” Glenn said.
NASDA members also acknowledge that a multi-faceted effort is needed to fix the industry’s employment challenges across the spectrum of production, from harvesting to research.
In a letter NASDA sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, Glenn shared that in less than nine years, 5.35 million jobs will be available in the agriculture and food sectors. The bipartisan bill was advocated by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, and Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-WA, which passed on a 247 to 174.
“Understanding the demand for labor across the U.S. food system, NASDA will continue to advocate for support of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the H-2A program and renewable visas for agricultural workers, along with other programs that address workforce challenges,” Glenn said.
“NASDA thanks Chairwoman Lofgren and Congressman Newhouse for reintroducing this legislation. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act provides a crucial step towards solving agriculture’s labor needs.”
“The legislation will stabilize our current workforce and make improvements to ensure that a future workforce is available to meet the growing needs of the fresh produce industry,” said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of United Fresh Produce Association.
The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate.