December 12, 2019

House Passes Historic Ag Immigration Reform Bill

Yesterday, Wednesday, December 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), by a vote of 260 to 165, with 226 Democrats and 34 Republicans supporting the legislation. The bill now moves to the Senate where it must be taken up by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with the support of President Trump.

As one of the key negotiators of the bill, Western Growers President & CEO Tom Nassif was on hand in the nation’s capital to participate in a press conference following the conclusion of the House floor vote. The press conference was organized by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the lead authors of the legislation, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash).

Following the historic passage of the FWMA, the first agricultural immigration reform legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in more than 30 years, dating back to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, Nassif stated:

“With today’s passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, another hurdle in the race to save America’s family farms has been cleared. Western Growers is grateful for the leadership exhibited by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Congressman Dan Newhouse, and the statesmanship demonstrated by the bipartisan group of legislators who sponsored and voted for the bill.”

The FWMA, a bipartisan bill aimed at securing a legal, stable workforce for American farms, does the following:

  • Establishes a program for experienced agricultural workers to earn legal status through continued employment in agriculture;
  • Reforms the H-2A program to improve ease of use and flexibility for employers, and provides access for employers with year-round labor needs; and
  • Establishes a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for agricultural employment, to be phased in after the other elements of the bill are in place.

In his statement, Nassif continued:

“But the race is far from over. Both the Senate and President Trump must be willing to take the political stand that is required to ensure the continued production of an abundant, safe and affordable domestic food supply. Our farmers are depending on the present actions of Congress and the Administration to make possible the future viability of the agriculture industry.”

Western Growers recognizes that the task to convince the Senate to take up the FWMA, and to secure the support of President Trump, will not be easy, in particular in an election year. However, we will continue to work with our congressional champions and coalition partners to resolve any remaining stakeholder concerns, which will undoubtedly require the addition of amendments to secure the mutual support of Congress and the Administration. We will also ask you, our members, to remain engaged in the process, to help us in our effort to resolve, once and for all, the American agricultural labor crisis.