Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act with a final bipartisan vote of 260-165. This bill addresses the desperate need for a legal workforce in the ag industry and is the first step in addressing illegal immigration through strong enforcement measures such as E-verify.
“Idaho farmers and ranchers feed the world and their greatest needs are a legal workforce and free trade, and this week we made tremendous progress on both issues,” said Simpson. “Passage of H.R. 5038 is a giant step in the right direction for our ag industry and their need for a legal workforce through addressing unpredictable wages, while expanding the H-2A Visa program to allow for the year-round workers Idaho dairies need. It will also eliminate onerous red tape from the federal government by streamlining the H2A process.”
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would enact reforms to the immigration system that will stabilize wages, enact national security checks and criminal grounds of inadmissibility, alleviate labor shortages for producers facing year-round needs, and streamlines the H-2A temporary visa program.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act does not enact amnesty. This legislation provides significant discretion to Homeland Security to deny status to any applicant if there is reason to believe the applicant is dangerous or otherwise undeserving. This bill also prohibits Certified Agriculture Workers (CAW) from receiving social safety net programs and if a CAW worker would like to seek further legal status they must pay a fine of $1,000 to start the process. These reforms, coupled with the implementation of E-Verify, will ensure agriculture has a legal source of workers and discourages future illegal immigration. President Trump called for merit- and employment-based immigration since his election, this bill does exactly that.
The bill also has wide support from the agriculture and business community. In November, over 300 agriculture groups sent a letter to House Leadership urging support and passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Over 40 of those groups are from Idaho. The bill also has support from U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Americans for Prosperity, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the CATO Institute estimates H.R. 5038 would have reduced labor expenses for farmers by $324 million in 2019 if it were law.
On Monday, Simpson joined a majority of the Republican caucus, encouraging, urging and demanding that Speaker Pelosi bring the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to the House floor for a vote. Nearly every agriculture group in America has called on Congress to pass USMCA, which significantly improves trade relations with our two largest trading partners that together purchase about one-third of all U.S. agricultural exports.
“Our farmers and ranchers can’t wait any longer for this trade deal to be signed. President Trump struck this deal over a year ago, and our farmers and ranchers in Idaho need truly free and fair trade to compete in a global marketplace and this deal does just that,” said Simpson.
Under USMCA, U.S. agricultural exports alone are expected to increase by more than $2 billion annually, helping to build on the 325,000 American jobs that are already reliant on our nation’s exports to Mexico and Canada.
“Idaho Farmers must have two things to continue to lead the nation in agriculture, a legal workforce and free trade. This week we made huge strides on both, and I’m proud to be part of substantial solutions to these issues and to represent Idaho agriculture,” said Simpson.