Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021
Washington, March 18, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021:
"H.R. 1603, the 'Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021,' addresses an issue of critical national importance: the growing labor challenges that are damaging the American agricultural sector.
"Solving this issue is paramount to the sustainability of American farming. It is also a matter of food security—and thus, national security.
"As domestic food outputs decline, we become more dependent on food imports, and more vulnerable to food contamination. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed these vulnerabilities as travel restrictions impacted our food supply chain and over 500,000 farmworkers tested positive for the virus.
"With fewer U.S. workers turning to agricultural work as their chosen pursuit, 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.
"As a result of these outdated laws, undocumented workers now comprise about half of the U.S. farm workforce.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. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, 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.
"This is a bipartisan, balanced solution—one that we should all be able to get behind. It is a victory for farmers who have struggled with persistent labor shortages for decades.
"It is also a victory for farmworkers who have worked tirelessly in the field growing and harvesting food 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. 1603 is the right solution. I hope my colleagues will vote today in favor of providing a seat at America’s table for those who have long grown the food we serve on it."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 my colleagues to support our farmers and our farmworkers by supporting this bill. I reserve the balance of my time."