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Press Releases

02/19/2020

Connecticut Representatives Vote to Pass Farm Workforce Modernization Act

On December 11, 2019, Connecticut’s representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), a bipartisan bill that seeks to address the growing labor crisis in the agriculture industry by creating a new pathway to legal status for undocumented citizens working in the U.S. agriculture industry.

“Labor availability is one of the biggest challenges facing Connecticut farmers, and I applaud our delegation’s work to pass this bill and reform a broken system,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture.

Representatives John Larson (CT-01), Joe Courtney (CT-02), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), James Himes (CT-04), and Jahana Hayes (CT-05) voted unanimously in favor of the bill, which cleared the house by a 260-165 margin and now moves on to the Senate.

Due to the diminishing supply of U.S. workers participating in farm labor, American farmers are increasingly reliant upon foreign workers to meet labor demands. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act will help to stabilize the agriculture sector and preserve rural heritage by ensuring that farmers can meet their labor needs well into the future. H.R. 5038 represents the first major agriculture labor reform since 1986. Importantly, this bill expands access to H-2A temporary agricultural worker program, to dairy farmers.

“Eastern Connecticut is home to some of the most productive dairy farms in the country – it’s part of our heritage in New England,” said Congressman Courtney. “Shortages in labor availability for them can cause ripple effects across our entire economy, and only serves to increase America’s reliance on foreign food. We’ve got to find more ways to work together to get things done in Washington, and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act is another example of the critical work we can accomplish here to help solve the real problems facing our agriculture industry. On behalf of Connecticut’s hard-working dairy farmers, I was proud to help pass this bipartisan bill.”

“We can no longer function without the necessary workers required to take care of our animals and tend to our crops,” said Seth Bahler, Owner of Oakridge Dairy Farm, the largest dairy farm in the State of Connecticut. “The Farm Workforce Modernization Act addresses the workforce needs for our dairy and we support this legislation and are excited about this bill.”

“We applaud House passage today of the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which takes significant strides to make badly needed improvements to agriculture immigration policy that address dairy’s unique workforce challenges,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “Congressman Courtney has been a longtime champion on this important issue for Connecticut dairy farmers and we thank him for championing this effort and providing momentum to move this important bill through the House.”