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NMPF-Backed Bipartisan Ag Labor Bill Advances Through House Judiciary Committee

December 9, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee, with NMPF’s support, on Nov. 21 passed the “Farm Workforce Modernization Act” (H.R. 5038), a bipartisan agriculture labor bill introduced late last month by Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA). The legislation, which may pass the full U.S. House of Representatives as soon as this week, would provide legal status to current agricultural workers and their families and reform the H2A guest-worker visa program to permit year-round agriculture to participate, two workforce needs vital for dairy.

Republican and Democratic committee members spoke during the committee markup about the crucial need to address the labor crisis, thanking Lofgren and others for bringing forward a bipartisan ag labor bill. Some members opposed the bill in its current form and expressed a willingness to work to improve the measure as it moves forward. During the markup and in subsequent interviews, Chair Lofgren indicated she would continue working to address members’ concerns with the bill, with close attention being paid to maintaining the bipartisan support that has helped move the measure thus far.

NMPF appreciates the efforts of Chair Lofgren and Rep. Newhouse and has worked closely with them throughout this legislative process. NMPF worked to build support among member cooperatives and state dairy associations via a Nov. 18 letter in which more than 300 agricultural organizations urged the House to move this bill forward. While it is not perfect, the bipartisan bill is a critical starting point to reforming U.S. agricultural labor policy.

“Our dairy farmers face unique workforce challenges that require a solution from Congress,” said Jim Mulhern, NMPF President and CEO. “Advancing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is essential for us to have the opportunity to continue bipartisan efforts to address the labor crisis hurting dairy farms across the U.S. NMPF thanks Chairwoman Lofgren and Congressman Newhouse for their bipartisan leadership in drafting a bill that’s capable of moving ag labor reform through Congress.”

NMPF is hopeful that the legislation will be considered on the House floor in December. Successful House passage of H.R. 5038 is expected to tee up bipartisan discussions to produce ag labor reform in the Senate.