Mario Diaz-Balart Doubles Down on Support of Farm Workforce Modernization Act, Mandatory E-Verify

This week U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balalrt, R-Fla., doubled down on his support of the “Farm Workforce Modernization Act” which reforms the current H-2A agricultural guestworker program and creates a merit-based visa program while mandating the use of E-Verify to check immigration status.

At the end of October, Diaz-Balart along with U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofrgren, D-Calfi., Dan New House, R-Wash., Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Mike Simpson, R-Id., and Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., showcased the bill when Lofgren introduced it. More than 40 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle lined up to back the proposal, including Diaz-Balart and U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., from the Florida delegation.

After months of negotiations , the bill creates “program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy” and reforms the H-SA program to be “more responsive and user-friendly for employers and provides access to the program for industries with year-round labor needs.” The bill also mandates the use of E-Verify for all agricultural employment though it will be phased-in and offers “dues process for authorized workers who are incorrectly rejected by the system.”

“The success of our farmers, growers, and producers is essential not only for our economy but for our national security. For far too long, we’ve suffered from a broken H2A visa system—making it difficult for farmers to hire the workforce necessary to provide to the American people,” said Diaz-Balart at the end of last month. “This bill would allow us to continue to grow and produce food in our country, while proving a solution that strengthens economic and national security, offers stability and permanence to agricultural workers, adheres to the rule of law, modernizes our antiquated H2A visa system, and bolsters the economy. I’m proud to lead this important legislation, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues as we pursue a good-faith, bipartisan solution for our nation’s farmers.”

“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But, farmworkers across the country are living and working with uncertainty and fear, contributing to the destabilization of farms across the nation,” said Lofgren. “Our bill offers stability for American farms by providing a path to legal status for farmworkers. In addition, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses the nation’s future labor needs by modernizing an outdated system for temporary workers, while ensuring fair wages and workplace conditions.”

The bill has the support of some stakeholders including the United Farm Workers (UWF), The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the National Coalition of Farm Cooperatives (NCFC).

This week, more than 300 agriculture groups sent a letter to U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,  and U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.,  in support of the proposal.

“As foreign producers take advantage of our labor shortage and gain market share, America will export not only our food production but also thousands of these farm-dependent jobs. Securing a reliable and skilled workforce is essential, not only for the agriculture industry but for the U.S. economy as a whole,” the agriculture groups wrote.

“The House must pass legislation that preserves agriculture’s experienced workforce by allowing current farmworkers to earn legal status. For future needs, legislation must include an agricultural worker visa program that provides access to a legal and reliable workforce moving forward,” they added.

The letter comes just in time since the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to starts its work on the bill on Wednesday.

“For far too long, our nation’s farmers have suffered from a broken H-2A visa system that has made it difficult to hire the necessary personnel to provide to the American people,” said Diaz-Balart on Tuesday. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is the only viable, bipartisan solution that can move in the House and address this issue, which is not only of economic importance, but of national security importance as well. I encourage my colleagues to pass this important legislation – let’s strengthen our economy and national security by continuing to grow and produce our own food, while legally providing permanence to our agricultural workers.”

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was negotiated over eight months by a bipartisan group of Members with stakeholders on all sides of the issue, including farming associations and the United Farm Workers union,” said Lofgren. “We’re in the process of providing stability for the people who get food to our table because of the agricultural employers, associations and the UFW who came to the table ready to compromise. As the Judiciary Committee gets ready to consider our bipartisan bill, this letter showcases how essential it is for Congress to work together to address our nation’s future farm labor needs.”

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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