Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019:
"Mr. Speaker, H.R. 5038, the 'Farm Workforce Modernization Act' is vital legislation that will address an issue of critical national importance: the growing labor challenges damaging the American agricultural sector.
"Solving this issue is crucial—not only from an economic standpoint, but also as a matter of national security. The less we grow our own food, the more dependent we become on food imports, and the more vulnerable we become to food contamination, epidemics, fluctuating market prices, and increased national debt.
"Today, food imports account for approximately 32 percent of the fresh vegetables and 55 percent of the fresh fruit that we consume. Systemic labor challenges are one of the main reasons for this increase in agricultural imports.
"The United States has seen a continuing decline in the number of family farm workers, and fewer U.S. workers are turning to farm work as their chosen pursuit. As a result, most of today’s hired farm laborers are foreign-born. Unfortunately, our immigration laws have not been updated to reflect the needs of our 21st century economy.
"Due in large part to these outdated laws, undocumented workers now comprise about half of the farm workforce. But they are living and working in a state of uncertainty and fear, which contributes to the destabilization of farms across the nation.
"H.R. 5038 addresses these challenges head on. The bill provides temporary status to current farmworkers with an optional path to a green card for those who continue to work in agriculture. The bill also addresses the nation’s future labor needs by modernizing the H-2A temporary visa program, while ensuring fair wages and workplace conditions for all farm workers.
"We have seen many attempts to solve this issue through legislation while I have been in Congress. However, I am pleased that today, we finally have a bipartisan, balanced solution—one that we should all be able to support.
"This bill is a victory for farmers who have struggled with persistent labor challenges for decades. It is also a victory for farmworkers, who have worked tirelessly to grow and harvest food for our nation without proper labor protections or any guarantee that they can remain in this country. No acceptable solution can fail to deal with this reality.
"That is why H.R. 5038 is right solution. I hope my colleagues will find the courage to vote today in favor of providing a seat at America’s table for those who are responsible for providing the food that we serve.
"I want to thank my friend and colleague, Ms. Lofgren of California, the Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, for her leadership and steadfast commitment to the bipartisan process that led to today’s vote on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. I urge all of my colleagues to do what is right and to support this bill.