Axne-Led Rural Affordable Housing Legislation Included in Farm Workforce Modernization Act

March 18, 2021
Press Release

Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) voted with a bipartisan majority in favor of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which addresses agricultural worker labor shortages within the American agriculture sector, and includes rural affordable housing option provisions the Congresswoman introduced last week.

The rural affordable housing option provisions address the shrinking supply of affordable rural housing maintained through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s section 515 and 514 programs. Maturing loans and a lack of new construction over the last decade has left rural Americans with less options for affordable housing.

These provisions provide USDA the tools and funding to preserve affordable housing options by restructuring existing Section 515 loans, extending incentives for owners to stay in the program, and providing properties with additional resources to repair and restore homes, while ensuring residents have rental assistance.

“These provisions will protect Iowans who benefit from existing USDA programs and will preserve the affordable options already available in our rural communities for a long time to come because continued underinvestment in housing is the last thig our rural communities need,” said Rep. Axne. “This legislation as a whole also opens up a new legal and reliable workforce to help our farmers and agriculture sector who regularly face a labor shortage at critical times like harvest. This bill represents a common-sense immigration solution that will benefit farmers and farmworkers alike.”

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which Rep. Axne is co-sponsoring, is a bipartisan approach to reforming the current visa systems, preserving jobs, and ensuring a future work force through reforms to the H-2A temporary visa program. Specifically, this legislation will streamline and reform the H-2A program to improve flexibility for farmers—including by opening the program to dairies and other year-round employers. It establishes a mandatory, nationwide E-Verify system for the agricultural sector, phased in after all legalization and H-2A reforms have been implemented.

The bill will also create a program for agricultural workers to obtain a temporary Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status and provide an option path for CAWs to earn residency through continued employment among other mandatory requirements.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 passed the House of Representatives on December 11th, 2019 260-165, with 34 Republicans supporting the measure.