Congressman Panetta’s Bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act Passes House of Representatives

December 11, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bipartisan bill spearheaded by U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04), Mike Simpson (R-ID-02), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25), passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a 260-165 vote.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a bipartisan solution for America’s agriculture industry and farmworkers by providing stability, predictability, and fairness to one of the most critical sectors of our nation’s economy. The legislation was negotiated over several months with input from agricultural stakeholders and labor organizations and was introduced with the support of 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans. Click here for a one-pager and click here for bill text.

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a critical, bipartisan step forward for both our farmers and farmworkers,” Congressman Panetta said. “I am thankful that the House advanced this effort to protect our existing farmworkers and promote an enduring workforce for agriculture. I look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to get this bill passed into law.”

“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But, farmworkers across the country are living and working with uncertainty and fear, contributing to the destabilization of farms across the nation,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. “Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers. In addition, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses the nation’s future labor needs by modernizing an outdated system for temporary workers, while ensuring fair wages and workplace conditions. I urge the Senate to follow the House’s lead and swiftly pass the first-of-its-kind bipartisan immigration compromise in decades that improves America’s agricultural labor programs and laws.”

“Creating a legal and reliable workforce for American agriculture has been one of my highest priorities since coming to Congress,” said Congressman Dan Newhouse. “Our farmers and ranchers facing a labor crisis need relief, and the men and women who contribute to our nation’s agriculture industry need certainty. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is the first step. This bill is our opportunity to finally provide stability to America’s farms and a significant improvement over the status quo. I am grateful to Representative Lofgren, our bipartisan coalition, and all of the agriculture and labor groups who helped draft the bill, and I encourage input from my colleagues as we continue working to improve this legislation in the Senate.”

“I am thrilled to see the Farm Workforce Modernization Act pass the House with a strong bipartisan vote,” said Congressman Mike Simpson. “Idaho farmers and ranchers have been asking me for years to address their labor needs and this bill takes an important step towards solving this issue. I would like to thank my colleagues Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, and Representatives Dan Newhouse, Mario Diaz-Balart, Doug LaMalfa, and Jimmy Panetta for their months of tireless efforts spent listening to farmers and workers alike to help craft this solution. It isn’t a perfect solution but compromise rarely is. The bill balances strong immigration enforcement with common sense reforms that allow our farmers to access a legal workforce without granting any special pathways. I hope the Senate can move similar legislation so we can sign a solution into law.”

“The need for a reliable and legal source of workers is a top priority for the agriculture industry, and I am proud to support the bipartisan Farm Worker Modernization Act, which is a significant improvement for rural America. This bill is great for our dairy industry, but we still need to address meat and poultry processing workforce needs going forward. I want to thank Ms. Lofgren, Mr. Newhouse, and the bipartisan group of Members for their hard work in getting us to this point,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson.

“I'm happy to see a good commonsense bi-partisan bill pass the House that is fair to farmers, farmworkers, and to U.S. citizens.  In California, and across the U.S., farmers have been calling for a reliable and legally documented workforce for years. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses these issues in a constructive manner that provides much-needed certainty for workers and farmers,” said Congressman Doug LaMalfa. “Today’s strong vote in the House should help ensure the Senate will continue the effort we started. “

“Today, the House took a significant and necessary step for the American agriculture industry and our farmers who have long needed a legal, reliable workforce,” said Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart. “It’s critical that we continue to grow and produce our food here in the United States. The moment we hand that power to another country, we put our national security at risk, along with millions of American jobs. This legislation would allow us to have the necessary workforce to continue to provide for our citizens, while giving permanence to our agricultural workers who have devoted their lives to the industry. I am proud to be an original sponsor of this bill, and I thank my colleagues who have worked tirelessly on this issue. I encourage the Senate to work with us so this bill can be signed into law-- It’s time to modernize our agriculture industry and reinforce our economy.”

“With today’s passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the House has taken an important step towards addressing the growing labor challenges on America’s farms,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “This legislation provides long-overdue security to current farmworkers and their employers, ensuring a future stable workforce under fair and safe conditions. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to find the courage to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and provide a seat at America’s table for those who have long grown the food we serve on it.”

The bill has garnered the widespread support of more than 300 agriculture groups and labor organizations.

“Today is a milestone because this is the first time in decades that the full House, under either party, has enacted an agricultural labor immigration bill,” said Arturo S. Rodriguez, President Emeritus, United Farm Workers. “This bill will help bring stability to agricultural workers and to the agricultural industry. Experienced and professional agricultural workers— who have earned the right to a stable future in the United States for themselves and their families—will be liberated from the pervasive fear they face every day while performing one of the toughest jobs in America.”

“The passage of legislation that helps address dairy’s unique workforce challenges is certainly a milestone and an opportunity we must pursue to the fullest,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation. “Agricultural labor reform is long overdue. With today’s action it is now imperative that the Senate act to fully address the needs of dairy farmers and all of agriculture, helping farmers do what they do best: feed our nation, and the world.” 

“House passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act today is an important first step towards solving one of most significant challenges facing farmers and ranchers today. The legislation points the way towards achieving many of the long-standing immigration reform goals of NCFC and others in agriculture and Chairwoman Lofgren and Congressman Newhouse—along with the other original co-sponsors—should be recognized for their leadership on this issue. We look forward to continued engagement in the legislative process now that the bill has passed the House and will be sent to the Senate,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

The full list of cosponsors includes: Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV-02); Rep. James Baird (R-IN- 04); Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37); Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY-22); Rep. Susan W. Brooks (R-IN-05); Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24); Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29); Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-27); Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-04); Rep. Luis J. Correa (D-CA-46); Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA-16); Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA-21); Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN-02); Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO-6); Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28); Rep. John Curtis (R-UT-03); Rep. David Scott (D-GA-13); Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL-13); Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19); Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25); Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16); Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1); Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11); Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA-3); Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29); Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH-07); Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA-10); Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3); Rep. Peter King (R-NY-2); Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01); Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL-05); Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05); Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI-10); Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10); Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04); Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA-22); Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ-1); Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20); Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA-52); Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN-07); Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1); Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-23); Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36); Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38); Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05); Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA-08) ; Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID-02); Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-08); Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA-11); Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07); Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19); Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21); Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT-2); Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH-15); Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY-3); Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-5); Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3); Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA-35); Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM-02); Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI-06); Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX-34); Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR-02); and Rep. Don Young (R-AK- At Large).