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NMPF Helps Move Ag Labor Through House, Senate Next

April 5, 2021

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) March 18th, a milestone completed with the help of NMPF’s recognized leadership that completes a crucial step in enacting agricultural labor reform legislation that addresses dairy’s workforce crisis.

“National Milk and Jim Mulhern, I can’t say enough about their effort and hard work of making sure that part of this solution includes the ability for those employers that provide full-time, year-round employment are now included in the H-2A program,” said Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA), a lead sponsor of the legislation with House Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), in a press conference after the bill’s approval. “Dairies, other parts of the industry are truly going to benefit from this, and it wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of the National Milk Producers Federation.”

The measure’s second passage by the House follows its approval in 2019 after Lofgren and Newhouse spent months negotiating among members of Congress and staff, worker advocacy groups, and agricultural stakeholders, including NMPF. The bill included provisions to meet both of dairy’s ag workforce reform needs: protection of current workers and their families and meaningful access to a workable guestworker program. Ag labor negotiations in the Senate after that bill was approved were brought to a screeching halt in March 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lofgren and Newhouse reintroduced – and re-energized — FWMA in late February 2021. The bill is very similar to the 2019 version, with technical corrections, a COVID-specific change, and calendar year updates. NMPF has been hard at work to reignite bipartisan support for the bill and now hopes to carry the momentum from the March 18th House passage to the Senate to get ag labor reform across the finish line this Congress.

“Today’s bipartisan passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) in the House of Representatives provides crucial momentum toward addressing dairy’s ongoing workforce crisis, which has only intensified during the COVID pandemic,” said Mulhern in a statement issued on FWMA passage. “Nothing gets done if we cannot move forward. The broad industry and bipartisan support for passing FWMA in the House demonstrates the acute need for ag labor reform this Congress and illustrates that consensus can be achieved.”

Mulhern, who participated in the post-passage press conference with Lofgren and Newhouse, thanked them for their leadership, as well as House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) “for providing a roadmap for further improvements to the House measure while supporting the advancement of ag workforce reform efforts toward a solution.”