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U.S. House passes Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The Idaho Dairymen's Association explains what the bill would do if passed. (Source: KMVT)
The Idaho Dairymen's Association explains what the bill would do if passed. (Source: KMVT)(KMVT)
Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 8:57 PM MST
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A new bill that has been introduced in October has just passed the House, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would give relief to farmers everywhere.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is a bill that would help reprieve Idaho’s agricultural labor shortage.

“It would give us the opportunity to have more employees, have a better supply of employees,” said Rick Naerebout, the CEO of Idaho Dairymen’s Association. "Right now, if you go talk to your average dairy producer, they are going to be short, probably 10 percent of their workforce."

There are three parts to the bill, and Naerebout explains what the bill does.

First it “provides legal status to the ag workers that might be in country without status. So it would give them legalization and would also protect immediate family members from deportation that might be in country with them,” Naerebout said.

Second, it gives year-round ag employer’s access to the H2-A program.

“Which would allow us to bring in workers in the future to work in year round employment," Nearebout said. "Currently there is not a visa program for year-round ag employers."

Third is the mandatory use of e-verify, which is an electronic verification system to determine legal status of any worker that might be hired in agriculture.

He says that the workforce for agricultural jobs is already largely foreign-born people.

“There is not domestic workers who want to do these jobs," Nearebout said. "You go out and talk to farmers, it doesn’t’ matter if they are growing potatoes or milking cows, you look at their workforce and they are largely foreign born, because those are the individuals who want the jobs."

For the agricultural workers who are here illegally, the bill would help them and their families feel less scared.

“It’s really going to help our rural communities, those individuals are going to be more involved, and they’ll be able to more freely spend money in our local businesses, so it’s going to be a good thing if we are able to move this forward,” said Naerebout.

The bill has passed the House, and is on its way to the Senate next.

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