WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) voted to pass H.R. 5038, The Farm Workforce Modernization Act. This legislation would stabilize the agricultural sector so our farmers’ labor needs are met. Representative Houlahan issue the following statement upon passage:
“The passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a step in the right direction for employment-based visa reform that serves the needs of Pennsylvania’s 6th district. Although I have heard from members of my community that this bill isn’t perfect, I voted for this bipartisan, compromise legislation because it improves upon the status quo: an agricultural sector struggling with a labor crisis and farmworkers and families without adequate protections, many of whom are undocumented without a pathway to legal status. Simply put, the system we have now works for no one.
“Earlier this year, after hearing from employers and farm worker advocacy groups in my community, I wrote to the drafters of this bill to ask that any legislation put forward include specific attention to the issue of year-round agriculture. Dairy producers and mushroom growers are the main engines of the agricultural sector in my community, and their business isn’t seasonal. I have heard from our mushroom farmers about how they are unable to maximize productivity without access to adequate labor. Dairy farmers have also told me that with more and consistent farmworkers, welfare on farms will improve through reduced animal stress. The current system does not consider the specific needs of employers and workers in year-round agricultural work. This bill responds to my advocacy – the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 includes up to 20,000 visas – growing to 60,000 in the third year - specifically for year-round agriculture.
“The bill also includes important provisions to support farm workers and their families. In PA-06, many families that originally came on a temporary basis to perform agricultural work have put down roots and become important members of our community. This bipartisan bill includes a pathway to a green card for farm workers and their families who are still on visas or are undocumented. My letter also called for legislation to ensure that employers are acting in good faith while utilizing the H-2A visa program. I am pleased that the Farm Workforce Modernization Act includes wage protections, improves the availability of farm worker housing, and establishes better oversight over foreign labor recruiters who have taken advantage of farm workers.
“While this bill is supported by a wide range of stakeholders, I respect the views of members of my community who view this legislation as imperfect, and I look forward to working with all stakeholders as it moves forward to the Senate.”
Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator, and a nonprofit leader. She’s in her first term representing Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Small Business Committee.