House Agricultural Labor Bill Ready?

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House lawmakers expect to introduce a bipartisan comprehensive agricultural labor reform bill as early as October 23. The core group of negotiators, led by Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), also includes Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Republicans Dan Newhouse (WA), Mike Simpson (ID), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), and Doug LaMalfa (CA).

The bill features three titles. Title I focuses on stabilizing the current but unauthorized farm workforce. It provides three different options for workers to transition to legal status. Title II modifies the current H-2A agricultural worker visa program. Title III phases in a requirement for agricultural employers to use the electronic employment eligibility system known as E-Verify for new hires. Key details on the bill can be found in a bill summary and a “myth vs. fact” sheet.

As is typically the case in a complex bipartisan legislative negotiation, both sides have had to make significant concessions. Most of the agricultural organizations involved in negotiations and in the Agricultural Workforce Coalition, including AmericanHort, expect to support the legislation in order to advance the legislative process in the House, which Democrats control. We will seek targeted improvements, especially in Title II, as the legislative process moves forward. If the Republican-controlled Senate can be persuaded to take up legislation, it is believed that bill provisions that fall short of our goals can be improved further.

Please watch for updates and calls to action as the schedule for considering this bill becomes clear.

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