(Washington, DC) – Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after joining fellow Representatives Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Mike Simpson (ID-02), and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) as well as agricultural stakeholders and labor organizations to unveil the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
The bipartisan legislation provides needed certainty for farmers and farm workers alike and provides stability for the American agriculture industry by improving the H-2A program, capping wage increases, and instituting a merit-based immigration system for the current agriculture workforce based on past and future work commitments.
LaMalfa said: “Today, we announce a common-sense compromise that is fair to farmers, farmworkers, and to US citizens who appreciate the rule of law. In California and across the US, farmers have been calling for a reliable and legally documented workforce for years. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses these issues in a constructive, bipartisan manner that will provide much-needed certainty. It does so by modernizing the H-2A program, stabilizing wages, and instituting a merit-based system for agricultural workers to eventually earn legal status – but only after years of proven and consistent employment in the U.S. agriculture industry. Vigorous background checks and state-of-the-art biometric verification are included as well. It also prohibits the usage of every source of public assistance benefits, including the ACA.
“After the program is in place, E-Verify will become mandatory to ensure only those legally in the country can work. This employment-based immigration reform is what President Trump has requested from Congress, it’s what agriculture and its farmers have been asking for, and it’s what the workers themselves need. It will vastly increase safety via legal border access and significantly reduce the use of fake documents and IDs while cutting out the human trafficking that is such a large part of border access for those seeking otherwise to fill these work needs.
“I’m happy to have been a part of crafting this bipartisan agreement and deliver on our promise to find solutions to our agriculture industry’s needs – while also upholding a legal process that honors our immigration laws and US citizens’ ideals of honoring those laws.”
Rep. LaMalfa speaks at a press conference to introduce the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.
Jamie Johansson, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said: “The agricultural labor crisis is resulting in rotting crops in fields and greater economic uncertainty in rural California. The only solution is better laws that address the real needs for both farm employers and their employees. Farmers and ranchers from across the state applaud Rep. LaMalfa’s leadership in brokering the best possible legislative deal in the House to allow for a legal agricultural workforce. The only way forward is a plan both Republicans and Democrats can get behind, and Mr. LaMalfa, working closely with Reps. Lofgren and Newhouse, has cleared the way.”
Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 Facts:
- Stabilizes existing workforce by giving those who have a proven work history in agriculture a chance to get a 5 year “Certified Agricultural Worker” status to stay in the U.S. and work in agriculture. As long as the worker continues to work annually in the agriculture industry, they can continue to work in the U.S. with unlimited 5-year renewals. CAWs can cross the border as they need without restriction.
- CAWs can earn the right to apply for a lawful permanent residency by continuing to work in agriculture for a minimum of 8 additional years, with a slightly faster option for those who can prove over a decade of work in agriculture.
- Mandatory E-Verify is phased in as the program begins to ensure only a legal workers can be employed.
- Strict prohibition on all government assistance to CAW’s and foreign workers, including ACA, SNAP and all types of welfare.
- Prohibits chain migration, while allowing only minor children and spouses to stay together.
- Reforms H2A by reducing duplicated paperwork – now only one filing is needed instead of three, previously.
- Online jobs board administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for all farm jobs in the USA
- Staggered entry for H2A workers – brings in specific workers with skillsets needed for specific jobs at the time needed.
- One-year freeze foreign farmworker wages and a cap on growth to a maximum of 3.25%, with the possibility that it will be reduced by -1.5%
- Year-round H2A to help with industries previously excluded from H2A such as the struggling dairy industry
- Pilot “portability” program for 6 years that allows for additional at-will work opportunities on farms outside of the traditional H2A model and with fewer costs.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.