Press Release

Ahead of César Chávez Day, Welch Joins Bill to Support Farm Workers, Address Agricultural Labor Crisis

Mar 29, 2024

Legislation Would Reform H-2A Visa Program, Create Wage Certainty for Farmers, Provide Pathway to Legal Status for Undocumented Farm Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ahead of César Chávez Day, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) reintroduced the Affordable and Secure Food Act, legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.)a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, to reform America’s temporary agricultural worker program, provide farm workers with certainty and a pathway to legal status after ten years, and provide relief to farmers and ranchers facing a labor workforce crisis. César Chávez Day—a nationally recognized holiday since 2014—commemorates the legacy of labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez.  

“The Affordable and Secure Food Act is our common-sense proposal to address America’s agricultural labor crisis, bring certainty to hundreds of thousands of farm workers living in the shadows, and lower food costs for Coloradans,” said Senator Bennet. “If we don’t get this done, more family farms and ranches will go out of business, more farm workers will continue to live with fear and uncertainty, and more families will continue to feel the squeeze of high food prices.” 

“Michigan is one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the country, and I hear farmers across my state loudly and clearly. Labor shortages and high costs are threatening their family farms. If Congress does not fix the flaws in our broken ag labor system, we will continue to fail our farms and farmworkers. This bill provides both with long overdue and much-needed certainty, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this done,” said Senator Stabenow. 

“Farmers in Vermont have a long and proud tradition of producing fresh, nutritious foods for communities across the country. But ongoing labor shortages exacerbated by our broken immigration system put that tradition, and the millions of people who rely on local farms to feed their families, at risk. Our farmers have called for reforms to agricultural worker programs to address labor shortages and provide stability in our supply chains, and it’s time for us to answer that call. The Affordable and Secure Food Actwill help build a reliable workforce for our farmers by expanding opportunities for folks who want to contribute to our rural economies, and provide stability for our farmers, families, and food supply,” said Senator Welch. 

In addition to Senators Welch, Bennet, and Stabenow, the Affordable and Secure Food Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) 

“Farm worker shortages drive costs up for American families and threaten our nation’s food supply,” said Senator Gillibrand.“The Affordable and Secure Food Act would create critical protections for farm workers, support our dairy farmers and specialty crop growers, lower food costs, and help make sure American farms and ranches stay in business. I’ll always fight for our agricultural workers and I’m committed to working with my colleagues to get this passed.” 

“Today, our nation’s broken immigration system makes it difficult for America’s farms and factories to recruit and retain the workers they need,” said Senator Durbin. “Congress must put partisanship aside and come together to modernize our nation’s immigration system so that our nation has a secure, affordable, and steady food supply. We must also ensure that millions of undocumented farm workers have a path to citizenship and all those who put food on our tables have the labor protections they deserve. Enacting the Affordable and Secure Food Act should be part of the solution.” 

“The shortage in skilled farm workers means less food for Americans and more sticker shock at the grocery store,” said Senator Hickenlooper. “Providing an earned path to citizenship for farm workers keeps farmers in business, food on our tables, and is a common-sense reform to our broken immigration system.” 

The Affordable and Secure Food Act reflects years of close input from farmers and ranchers, agricultural workers, and labor organizations. The legislation reforms the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker program by expanding H-2A visas to year-round jobs for the first time, modernizing the application process, creating more wage certainty, and ensuring critical protections for farm workers. 

Specifically, the bill would: 

  • Reform the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker program by providing H-2A visas for year-round jobs for the first time, modernizing the application process, creating more wage certainty, and ensuring critical protections for H-2A farm workers; 
  • Establish a program for agriculture workers, along with their spouses and minor children, to earn legal status. Farm workers in the program may earn a path to a green card after 10 years of agriculture work; and 
  • Establish a mandatory, nationwide electronic verification system for all agricultural employment, with high standards for privacy and accuracy. 

Read the full text of the bill. 

Learn more about the bill. 

Read a ‘myths vs. facts’ sheet about the bill.