WASHINGTON – The US House of Representatives recently passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act giving seasonal workers a program to earn legal status if they are continually employed in the agriculture sector. 

The bill was co-sponsored by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) The vote passed 247-174 with 30 Republicans in favor of the legislation.

“Stabilizing the workforce will protect the future of our farms and our food supply,” Lofgren said. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act accomplishes this by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers and updating and streamlining the H-2A temporary worker visa program while ensuring fair wages and working conditions for all workers. I look forward to working with Senators on both sides of the aisle to get this bipartisan legislation that serves the best interests of our country to the President’s desk.”

The bill permits workers to apply for temporary status as “Certified Agricultural Worker” only if they worked at least 180 days in the agriculture sector in the last two years. 

Qualified applicants are provided 5-year renewable agriculture visas. Individuals can renew their 5-year visas by working at least 100 days in agriculture each year.

Legal Permanent Resident or green cards can be applied for by workers who have worked in agriculture for at least 10 years and finish four more years of farm work to be eligible. People with less than 10 years would need to work eight more years in the sector.  

“By creating a viable and desperately-needed agriculture labor program, we are removing opportunities to work illegally in the United States, strengthening our border security, and ensuring we have a reliable, legal workforce for our farms and ranches for years to come,” Newhouse said. “Today’s passage marks an important step forward for farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get it to the President’s desk and deliver historic and meaningful reforms for American agriculture.”

The law would also establish a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment. The National Pork Producers Council shared its thoughts on the legislation earlier this month

“We look forward to working with Congress to enact meaningful labor reform that both opens the H-2A program to year-round labor without a cap and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country,” said Jen Sorenson, president of the National Pork Producers Council earlier in March. “Though changes to the current proposal will be necessary to meet those needs, we’re confident Congress will find a solution that works for all parties.”