The United Fresh Produce Association is praising the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The legislation, which provides a path to legal status for migrant and undocumented farmworkers, originally passed the House in late 2019 but failed to move through the Senate.
In a statement, United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel said the act "will stabilize our current workforce and make improvements to ensure that a future workforce is available to meet the growing needs of the fresh produce industry." United Fresh in January had identified immigration reform as one of its top legislative priorities for the year.
The Biden administration, in a news release, said the legislation will deliver better working conditions for laborers and much-needed stability for agriculture businesses. "For generations, America’s farmworkers—many of whom are undocumented—have worked countless hours to feed our nation and ensure our communities are healthy and strong," the administration said. "This has been even more clear and crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, as farmworkers have put their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line to ensure that families across the country have food on the table."
Earlier in the week, 350 United Fresh members sent a letter to House leaders urging passage of the act. "The U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable industry is in crisis due to an ever-worsening shortage of labor," signatories wrote. With the House's action, the association said it will now turn its efforts to working to "further improve" the bill and gaining additional bipartisan support as the act heads again to the Senate.
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