Slotkin co-introduces landmark bipartisan immigration reform bill for agricultural workers

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin

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U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) co-introduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act alongside U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, who represents Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, and other members on both sides of the aisle. The bill, forged in bipartisan collaboration to reform a key area of the U.S. immigration system, provides farmers a legal, reliable workforce, and provides earned visa status for Certified Agricultural Workers. Specifically, the bill expands the H-2A foreign guest-worker program, so that farmers can more easily hire workers to support their businesses.

While partisan polarization stalls progress on broad comprehensive immigration reform, Slotkin has been an outspoken advocate for bipartisan collaboration to reform our broken immigration system, stressing the need for smart and strong border security, an immigration system that is keyed to our economy, and one that lives up to American values and humanitarian standards.

With this in mind, Slotkin co-led the Farm Workforce Modernization Act to seize on an area of bipartisan consensus in immigration reform that would have an immediate and positive impact on 8th district farmers, particularly dairy farmers, who have emphasized visa and immigration challenges as a key barrier to maintaining a stable, reliable workforce.

“Right now, our broken immigration system isn’t working for anyone — particularly our farmers who depend on temporary agricultural workers,” Slotkin said. “This is a consistent issue I’ve heard about from farmers across our district, and I’m so proud to join my colleagues in introducing a bipartisan bill that, among other proposed fixes, creates year-round access to the H-2A visa program for dairy and other agricultural sectors that desperately need workers but have previously been unable to utilize the program.”

The bill was introduced with the strong bipartisan support of 24 Democrats and 20 Republicans, and was backed by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, of which Rep. Slotkin is a member.

“Formed in bipartisan collaboration, this bill is proof positive that we can and must find areas of common ground when it comes to immigration reform — and when we do, our local businesses, our communities and our economy are stronger as a result,” Slotkin added.

“We are pleased Congresswoman Slotkin is supporting the Farm Workforce Modernization Act by co-introducing the legislation,” said Sheila Burkhardt, Sr. Director, Michigan Milk Producers Association. “This bill helps address the year-round needs of dairy farmers and workers, something that is greatly needed and long overdue. We appreciate Congresswoman Slotkin’s understanding of the need to address this issue for the dairy industry.”

“We’re glad to see Rep. Slotkin introducing a bill that makes pragmatic, bipartisan reforms so that farmers can rely on a steady, dependable workforce,” said Jim Byrum, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “While politics can too often get in the way of reforming our immigration system in line with our communities’ and businesses’ needs, Rep. Slotkin’s commitment to working across the aisle in response to the needs of farmers in our district is welcome leadership on this issue.”

Since assuming office, Slotkin has spent time speaking directly with farmers in mid-Michigan, and advocating in Washington for the issues they raise with her. Earlier this year, farmers in Mason met with Slotkin and asked her to help strengthen mental health support services for farmers. Slotkin then secured $10 million in federal funding for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, a program that provides funding for mental health assistance to farmers.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which was negotiated over several months with input from agricultural stakeholders and labor organizations, makes meaningful reforms to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically designed for the nation’s agricultural sector.

The bill takes a two-pronged approach to meet year-round labor needs: the bill creates a new, capped program for employers seeking to bring in temporary workers for year-round needs; and the bill builds off of current law, by dedicating an additional 40,000 green cards per year for agricultural workers. The bill also establishes a mandatory, nationwide E-verify system to ensure a legal workforce for the agricultural sector, attempts to limit year-to-year wage fluctuations to provide more stability and predictability for employers, and cuts red tape for farmers by doing away with dated recruiting requirements and allowing for electronic job postings.

Background on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act:

Farmers and ranchers across the United States are in desperate need of a high-quality, reliable workforce, and the current H-2A guestworker program is in need of meaningful, bipartisan reform. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act creates a workforce solution for America’s agriculture industry by providing stability, predictability, and fairness to one of the most critical sectors of our nation’s economy.

The bill will:
• Establish a program for agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status through continued agricultural employment and contribution to the U.S. agricultural economy.

• Reform the H-2A program to provide more flexibility for employers, while ensuring critical protections for workers. The bill focuses on modifications to make the program more responsive and user-friendly for employers and provides access to the program for industries with year-round labor needs.

• Establish mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for all agricultural employment with a structured phase-in and guaranteed due process for authorized workers who are incorrectly rejected by the system.

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