House Passes Rep. Delgado-Backed Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021

March 18, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) voted to pass the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which creates a workforce solution for America’s agriculture industry by providing stability, predictability, and fairness to one of the most critical sectors of our nation’s economy. The bill represents a historic compromise between the agriculture industry and farmworkers and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically designed for the nation’s agricultural sector.

“Farmers across upstate New York provide the American people with the safest, most abundant food supply in the world, and they need access to a reliable workforce. During 54 town halls and countless farm tours, I’ve heard from dairy, organic, and diversified farmers about the need to modernize and streamline the H-2A visa program,” said Rep. Delgado. “I am proud to join Republicans and Democrats to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a historic bill that supports farmers and strengthens worker protections for farmworkers. Notably, this legislation would finally allow dairy farmers to access the H-2A farmworker program -- a critical priority for our upstate agricultural economy. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a strong, bipartisan effort to help fix our broken immigration system and support families, farmers, and local economies. I urge the Senate to move immediately to pass this legislation.”

“All of American agriculture is facing a labor crisis, which COVID has intensified. Dairy’s workforce needs are especially acute because the year-round industry cannot access the H-2A temporary seasonal agricultural visa program,” said the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). “NMPF supports this legislation.”

The bill was negotiated over eight months in 2019 with input from farmers, agricultural stakeholders, labor organizations, and farmworker advocates. In December 2019, it became the first agriculture labor reform legislation to pass the House of Representatives since 1986. Since its passage in the House, a bipartisan coalition of Members has been working to strengthen support for the legislation.

Over 250 Agriculture Industry Groups, including the New York Farm Bureau, New York Apple Association, New York State Flower Industries, New York State Vegetable Growers Association support this legislation.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act:

  • Establishes a program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.
  • Reforms the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers.
  • Provides up to 20,000 H-2A visas per year (for 3 years) for dairy and other year-round agricultural employers
  • Focuses on modifications to make the program more responsive and user-friendly for employers and provides access to the program for industries with year-round labor needs.
  • Establishes a new mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment to ensure a legal workforce.