Congressman Panetta’s Farm Workforce Modernization Act Passes House

March 18, 2021
Press Release

Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) and his House colleagues passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA).  In 2019, Congressman Panetta was part of a select and small bipartisan group of Congress members that worked diligently to formulate the bill over a period of nine months.  The group, led by Chair of the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Zoe Lofgren, included Democratic and Republican lawmakers as well as representatives of farmers and farmworkers.  The FWMA would provide a path to legalization for farmworkers who are willing to continue to work in agriculture, reform and modernize the H-2A visa guestworker program to protect the agriculture workforce, and gradually implement the E-Verify system.  If signed into law, the FWMA would provide a bipartisan solution for America’s agriculture industry and labor organizations while offering stability, predictability, and fairness to our country’s agriculture communities.

“For way too long, farmers and farmworkers all across our nation, including in our own communities on the central coast of California, have dealt with a broken and bureaucratic immigration system that has led to way too much uncertainty and instability in the agriculture industry,” said Congressman Panetta.  “Fortunately, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a bipartisan solution that would protect the existing farmworker and promote an enduring farm workforce by providing an earned path to legalization for those willing to continue working in agriculture as well as a streamlined H-2A visa process.  Hopefully, there will be members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle that not only understand and appreciate this crucial, complex, and politically complicated issue, but also have the will to sit down, work together, and agree on this much needed legislation, as we did in the House, as an important solution for our farmers and farmworkers and communities and country.”

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.

Congressman Panetta led the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04), Mike Simpson (R-ID-02), Jim Costa (D-CA-16) Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25).

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