WASHINGTON, D.C.—The House Judiciary Committee yesterday advanced the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019. Rep. Greg Stanton voted in favor of the bill, which would streamline an important foreign workforce program and provide a pathway for Arizona’s agriculture workers to earn legal status.
In his remarks at the markup, Stanton noted the importance of the bill to Arizona’s economy—especially in Yuma County, where more than 3,000 workers are certified by the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Labor program.
“In my home state of Arizona, especially in Yuma County, the H-2A program has been the difference between leaving crops in the ground and farmers making ends meet,” Stanton said.
In total, nearly 7,500 H-2A certified workers are employed statewide in Arizona where agriculture is estimated to be a $23.3 billion industry. The state is the third largest producer for fresh market vegetables and the fourth largest in the country in acres of organic vegetables.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Arizona ranks in the top 10 states for workers certified under the H-2A program. Agricultural production in Yuma alone contributes almost $3 billion annually to the state’s economy. The top crops farmed by H-2A workers include lettuce, melons and broccoli—which put Yuma County in the top 0.1 percent of all U.S. counties for sales of vegetables and melons and acres of vegetable crops.
[Sources: https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/map/2016/AZ.pdf, https://agriculture.az.gov/sites/default/files/AZDA_GuideToAZAg-R5.pdf]
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, H.R. 5038, addresses agricultural labor issues in three primary ways.
- First, the bill creates a process for undocumented agricultural workers to apply for temporary certified agricultural worker (CAW) status, with an option to earn lawful permanent resident (LPR) status through continued agricultural work and the payment of penalties.
- Second, the bill modernizes and streamlines the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Labor Certification Program to make it friendlier and more cost-effective for employer (including by controlling wage fluctuations and reducing the cost of farmworker housing), while strengthening protections for all agricultural workers.
- Third, the bill phases in mandatory E-Verify for the agricultural sector.
Stanton’s comments at the markup hearing are below and video is available here:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am encouraged to see the Judiciary Committee moving forward with H.R. 5038—a bipartisan bill that will improve the H-2A program to make it easier for Arizona farmers to effectively meet their workforce needs while also providing a pathway for agriculture workers to earn legal status.
In my home state of Arizona, especially in Yuma County, the H-2A program has been the difference between leaving crops in the ground and farmers making ends meet.
Farming in Arizona is hard work—utilizing automation technology during harvest is not always an option because of the labor-intensive crops grown there. This bill rewards these farmers and workers for their hard work by modernizing the H-2A program.
This bill boosts efficiency while lowering legal fees. It creates certainty by streamlining the H-2A filing process. It creates a single online portal for employers so farmers can focus on what they do best—feeding Arizonans.
There is no question that the United States grows the best agricultural products in the world. We are in a time when farmers are facing difficulties on all fronts—from climate change to the ongoing trade war with China—and crops should not have to rot in the ground because farmers are unable to access the workforce they need.
Today, we are taking a good step forward in tackling the needs of Arizona farmers. This bill is an example of true bipartisan cooperation, and as we continue to address the immigration challenges facing this country, we must continue this approach.
I support this bill because it is good for Arizona’s economy—where agribusiness contributes upwards of $23.3 billion to the state’s economy—and I hope my colleagues on this committee will join me in supporting this bill.
I yield back.