How we compromised to help America's farms
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The headlines out of Capitol Hill these days often make bipartisanship seem like a far-off memory. But we know firsthand that the possibility and promise of compromise continues to exist—even on the most seemingly polarizing topics, like immigration.

We recently introduced a bipartisan proposal – the Farm Workforce Modernization Act – to improve our agricultural labor programs and laws. The bill came together after months of negotiations with a coalition of our House colleagues, agricultural stakeholders, and labor organizations. We’re proud that it passed through the Judiciary Committee and is scheduled to be considered on the floor this week. We’re even more proud that it is supported by members of Congress from across the country and across the aisle.

It wasn’t easy to get to this point, but we ended up with a bill that is supported by employers, employees, consumers and more than 300 agricultural groups. We got some of President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE’s fiercest critics and most loyal allies to come together on a bill to reform an immigrant labor program. The answer is simple: we sat down with stakeholders and listened to different viewpoints for the sake of America’s farms, and we agreed to compromise to improve an industry that desperately needs our help.


In today’s global economy, our farmers and ranchers are facing many obstacles – from international trade and market access to ever-changing technologies and regulations. None of these are as pressing, however, as the lack of a legal, high-quality and reliable workforce.

We want to highlight our progress in the hopes that it may pave the way for future compromises. Our effort shows that much can be achieved if members of Congress work with stakeholders on all sides to address needs in specific industries. If we get businesses, industry associations, and workers’ groups together in a room, we can succeed.

In our specific case, we heard from farmworkers and producers about how the H-2A guestworker program is seriously flawed. From the outdated application process, unsustainable costs, and convoluted federal jurisdiction to a lack of access for dairy farmers and other year-round operations, it is clear the H-2A program needs to work better.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act provides predictability for farmers by overhauling the visa program to ensure real access to a strong workforce. At the same time, it guarantees certainty for the farmworkers who have been helping feed the world for decades by creating a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically designed for the nation’s agricultural sector. With a modernized, employment-based immigration system, farmworkers who have become experts in our fields – thanks to decades of service to America’s farms – can earn legal status, with the option to later seek permanent residence, to ensure the stability of American agriculture.

The House has not passed agriculture labor reform since 1986, and it’s well-past due. We know the national conversation about immigration has changed, yet we can’t be daunted by what did not happen or what people say is impossible. Instead, we must look to areas, like the agricultural workforce, where we have confidence we can make progress and try to move forward, together – Democrats and Republicans.

Our bipartisan, collaborative effort to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the House is a momentous one. This initial step forward is key for Americas farmers and ranchers to finally gain access to the dependable and experienced workforce they need and deserve.

Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenDHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility House passes legislation to boost election security research Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns MORE represents California’s 19th District. She currently serves as the chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. Rep. Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO GOP lawmaker introduces bipartisan guest worker bill Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain MORE, a Republican, represents Washington’s 4th District. He is a third-generation Yakima Valley farmer and served as the director of Washington State’s Department of Agriculture from 2009 to 2013.