Underwood Supports the Bipartisan Passage of Legislation to Support Farm Workers and Illinois Businesses

March 18, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON— Today, Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14) supported the passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, bipartisan immigration legislation that modernizes and streamlines the H-2A program to ensure Illinois businesses and farmers have access to the experienced workers they need without the red tape and extreme financial burden of the current system. The H-2A program allows business owners to apply for temporary visas for foreign workers to fill short-term seasonal jobs when American workers are not available. 

“Our immigration system is broken and in need of urgent, bipartisan solutions. Today’s passage is an important step that will help businesses and farmers in our community,” said Underwood. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House, the Administration, and the Senate to ensure we get a bill signed into law that works for northern Illinois families and businesses.” 

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would create a process for undocumented agricultural workers to apply for temporary certified agricultural worker (CAW) status, with an option to earn lawful permanent resident (LPR) status through continued agricultural work and the payment of penalties. The bill also would modernize and streamline the H-2A program to make it less burdensome and more cost-effective for employers while strengthening protections for all agricultural workers. Third, the bill would phase in mandatory E-Verify for the agricultural sector.   

“We support the Farm Workforce Modernization Act strongly.  It should help our industry secure seasonal workers to support the landscape and specialty agriculture sectors through the H-2A program.  We grow shrubs, flowers, native plants and ground covers on over 700 acres in Illinois and Michigan for many family-owned landscape contracting firms and garden centers. Our industry is highly seasonal and we rely on skilled agriculture labor to be available at the right time of the season to grow plants and create landscapes.  Our industry beautifies and brings health to our homes, communities and public spaces and is currently suppressed due to a lack of skilled agricultural labor at the right times of the growing season.  A path to legal status is important for many seasonal agriculture workers who have been in our industry and in our country for a decade or more, are productive workers, and desire to contribute to our communities more fully,” said Christa Orum-Keller, Chairman of the Board for Midwest Groundcovers and Midwest Trading. 

“As a former dairy farmer, I understand the difficulties farmers are facing with adequate skilled labor. Nearly fifty percent of all dairy farm labor is provided by immigrants who play a critical role in care in feeding America. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would allow dairy farmers to use the H2-A program for a three-year visa period and ensure farmers have a reliable source of labor. Additionally, agriculture workers deserve the chance to stay and work on farms through an earned requirement that will benefit the dairy industry and our current trained labor force. I thank Rep. Underwood for helping get this proposal passed in Congress to support Illinois farmers,” said Linnea Kooistra, Owner of Kooistra Farm LLC.