House of Representatives Passes Farm Workforce Bill

The bill would provide a path to legalization for current farm workers and expand the H-2A foreign guest worker program. ( Farm Journal )

On Wednesday, 34 Republicans joined 226 Democrats passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038). The bill, the first House-passed agricultural labor reform since a comprehensive immigration plan in 1986, includes critical provisions to address dairy’s unique workforce needs.

The bill would provide a path to legalization for current farm workers and expand the H-2A foreign guest worker program. The next step would be for the Senate to create a companion bill. Edge urged the Senate to continue with this process to address the needs of dairy farmers in the Midwest.

“The urgency to reform the agricultural labor system cannot be overstated for dairy farmers,” said Mike McCloskey, dairy farmer and chair of NMPF’s Immigration Task Force, in a statement. “Today, House members on a bipartisan basis showed us that they are taking our labor crisis seriously. We will use this momentum to work with the Senate to build consensus in drafting an improved bill that further addresses dairy’s workforce needs.”

Similarly, Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF says this bill addresses dairy’s unique workforce challenges. 

“Agricultural labor reform is long overdue,” he said in a statement. “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.” 

Brody Stapel, president of Edge and a dairy farmer in eastern Wisconsin thanked for the bill’s authors and co-sponsors for getting support the legislation.

“While certain items are not ideal, this compromise bill may be the best opportunity in the foreseeable future for a labor solution for our farmers,” he said. “We urge the Senate to take up the bill, address potential improvements and move legislation forward.”

Wednesday Dairy Farmers of America praised the House for passing the bill but warned members that the process isn’t over. 

“Today was a victory for the dairy industry as passage of the Farm Modernization Workforce Act is a critical first step toward addressing the current and future year-round workforce needs of the dairy industry,” they said in an email. “This process is still in its preliminary stages and language is subject to change. It remains unclear if the U.S. Senate will take up a similar measure.”