House Passes Ag Immigration Reform

Len WilcoxImmigration, Legislative

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On Dec. 11, the House of Representatives voted to approve the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (HR 5038) by a vote of 260-165. The bill reforms the process by which temporary foreign workers migrate to the United States to work in agriculture.

The bill has support from members of both sides of the aisle as well as from farmworker and grower groups. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California authored the bill, and it was co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans.

The legislation creates the Certified Agricultural Worker program, which will allow individuals currently working in agriculture to gain legal status. It also significantly reforms the current H-2A program (agricultural work visa program). It will streamline the application process, reduce costs and provide for agriculture to meet the current and future workforce needs. After the Certified Agricultural Worker program is established, it will be mandatory for agriculture to take part in the E-Verify program.

The California Citrus Mutual board of directors voted to support HR 5038. In a press release, the board expressed appreciation of the hard work of multiple California congressional representatives. This is the first substantial agricultural immigration reform bill passed in the House of Representatives in over 30 years. HR 5038 will also need to clear the Senate and will require the President’s signature.

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Len Wilcox

Correspondent at Large for Citrus Industry Magazine and AgNet West