Luria, Spanberger back bill to address agricultural labor shortages
The House voted Wednesday to pass H.R. 5038, Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019. This bipartisan bill will help Coastal Virginia’s agricultural industry by implementing reforms that aim to address scarcities in labor.
“Farmers and growers throughout our Eastern Shore community have shared with me the need for access to a reliable workforce,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria, D-Va. “That is why I supported this measure to make it easier for agricultural employers to hire and retain workers and grow our regional economy.”
“Last night’s passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act marks an important success in our bipartisan efforts to reform our immigration system and strengthen our country’s rural economies. In Central Virginia, our crop and livestock producers need to be able to ward off the farm labor crisis and retain their workforce, and our greenhouses and dairies—which have unique labor requirements—need modernized policies,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, D-Va. “In face-to-face conversations with our producers, I’ve repeatedly heard that the current H-2A program is overly-burdensome and fails to address the year-round labor requirements of the Seventh District. By cutting down on red tape, creating a new year-round guest worker program, and stabilizing the existing workforce, this legislation reflects the needs of farmers in Central Virginia and across the country. As an original cosponsor of this bill, I’d like to thank my colleagues for advancing this commonsense, bipartisan legislation—and I encourage the U.S. Senate to take up this bill for a vote as soon as possible.”
H.R. 5038 would address scarcities in the labor market by reforming the H-2A visa program and by creating a Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status. It will modernize the H-2A visa program by creating a single, online platform for completing and processing H-2A visa applications. This would allow employers to file a single petition for all H-2A visa applications, making the program more responsive and easier to use for employers.
The CAW status under H.R. 5038 would create a pathway for certain agricultural workers to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would prevent agricultural businesses from hiring ineligible workers by phasing in a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for agricultural employers to verify the status of each worker. The bill would give smaller farms more time to implement this system to prevent excessive administrative burdens.