WASHINGTON (WTEN) — On Thursday night, the House passed H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bipartisan legislation will provide support to local farms and dairies through reforms that improve and streamline the temporary visa program and strengthen protections for agricultural workers.

Congressman Paul Tonko was one of the representatives to support the passage of the act.

“As the grandson of dairy farmers, I recognize firsthand the challenges facing New York’s family farms and dairies,” said Congressman Tonko. “Strengthening America’s seasonal guest worker program will save countless New York farms and communities that have suffered major losses year after year simply because they can’t find workers to do the job at harvest or milking time. Our dairies in particular have struggled without any guest worker program or other means to fill the labor demands of their year-round operations.”

“New York Farm Bureau is pleased to see the Farm Workforce Modernization Act advance and thanks Representative Tonko for his support of the legislation,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President. “The bill would provide much needed agricultural labor reforms that address the needs of farmworkers currently in New York as well as expanding the agricultural visa program to include year-round labor. This would provide more stability for farmworkers and farm employers alike, especially dairy farms, and strengthen our food system in this country.”

Tonko says the Farm Workforce Modernization Act:

  • Guarantees at least half of the 60,000 year-round H-2As over the first three years
  • Reforms the H-2A visa program to add flexibility for employers and workers by allowing staggered worker entry, a single application progress, and certain wage reforms
  • Changes the Certified Agriculture Worker (CAW) visas to give the dairy industry, which has been worsened by the COVID pandemic, access to a stable, legal workforce
  • Phases in a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify process for all agricultural guest workers, including guaranteed follow-up reviews for workers that are rejected incorrectly
  • Supports more than 250 agricultural organizations including the New York Farm Bureau