Congressman Panetta Introduces Farm Workforce Modernization Act for 117th Congress

March 9, 2021
Press Release

Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) announced the reintroduction of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) for the 117th Congress.  The bipartisan legislation led by Congressman Panetta, Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Jim Costa (CA-16) Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), and Mario Diaz-Balart  (FL-25) would protect the existing agriculture workforce by providing an earned pathway to legalization and potential for citizenship for those who have and will continue to work in agriculture and improve the H-2A visa guestworker program with streamlined and modern procedures.  The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which was negotiated over several months during the 116th Congress with Republicans, Democrats, farmers, and farmworkers, is a bipartisan solution for America’s agriculture industry and labor organizations that provides stability, predictability, and fairness to our country’s agriculture communities.

"For far too long, farmers and farmworkers from the Central Coast to the center of America to the East Coast have faced continued uncertainty when it comes to our nation’s agricultural workforce," said Congressman Panetta.  “My colleagues and I who understand this pressing issue worked diligently and cooperatively to formulate the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act.  That bill would protect existing agriculture workers who are willing to stay working in agriculture and provide modernization to the H2A visa process to ensure the safety and future flow of farmworkers.  This legislation took a lot of hard work and compromise and will continue to call for that type of effort for it to become law.  Considering the positive impact that this legislation will have on our country’s food security, I look forward to continuing the fight for this bill, its passage into law, and its lasting benefits for the farmers and farmworkers of our communities.

The FWMA will:

  • 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 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.