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Pingree Votes for Bipartisan Immigration Bill to Support Farmers, Farm Labor

Washington, December 11, 2019

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today voted to pass H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, of which she is a cosponsor. The bipartisan bill is  immigration reform legislation designed to support farm businesses who rely on H-2A visas to fill positions in a tight labor market and allow long-time agricultural workers in the U.S. to earn legal status. 

“Maine farms, which are overwhelmingly small and mid-sized, are suffering from a labor shortage. There simply are not enough workers available to fill open positions and it takes a toll on our farms. The local food movement, which is helping attract much-needed residents to our state, is being driven by small farms who simply cannot survive without adequate workforce,” said Pingree. “This bill is a great example on how we can come together and achieve meaningful reform that both supports American industry and protects workers. I hope the Senate takes this bill up quickly and that President Trump signs this bill, which would bring much-needed relief to farmers and the laborers who help put food on our tables.”

Farmers and ranchers across the United States are in desperate need of a high-quality, reliable workforce and are struggling under the weight of a growing labor crisis. In Maine, the unemployment rate is historically low at 2.8%, underscoring the challenge for Maine businesses to find workers. Fewer American workers are willing to perform farm labor, and thus U.S. farmers are increasingly dependent on foreign workers to meet labor demands.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act reforms the H-2A agricultural guestworker program and creates a merit-based visa program designed specifically for the agricultural economy, providing stability to one of the pillars of America’s economic health. H.R. 5038 establishes a path to legal permanent residence for undocumented farmworkers through continued agricultural employment, provides more flexibility for employers while ensuring protections for workers, and mandates E-Verify for all agricultural employment. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would help dairy farmers and other producers who need year-round labor by providing an additional 40,000 green cards for farmworkers and granting three-year visas for workers in certain sectors. 

The bill has the support of more than 300 agricultural groups and labor organizations, including Farmworkers Justice as well as the United Farmworkers, and was cosponsored by 25 Republicans and 28 Democrats. Full text of the bill can be found here


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