Author: Rachel Cohen, Boise State Public Radio

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers, including Idaho representative Mike Simpson, introduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act on Wednesday that would make it easier for farmworkers to gain legal status.

It has support from farmworker organizations, which say the bill would offer stability for workers who often live in fear of deportation. Several agriculture industry groups, including the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, also back the bill and were involved in the months-long negotiation process.

The act would provide a pathway to legal protections for many undocumented farmworkers who could apply to be "Certified Agricultural Workers," and could later be eligible for permanent resident status, depending on their work history and future work commitments.

The legislation would also streamline the H-2A visa program, which allows employers to hire immigrants for temporary, seasonal agricultural work. Through reforms to the application process, it would allow growers to hire workers more easily. The bill also outlines changes to wage structures and housing costs for H-2A workers.

Under the proposed system, employers would use an online federal platform called E-verify to check the status of their workers.

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