Rep. Alex Ybarra’s statement on exclusion of H-2A farmworkers from housing sales tax exemptions

The Washington State House of Representatives recently passed a bill that excludes H-2A farmworkers from the expansion of certain sales and tax exemptions on agricultural housing.

Current Washington law provides a sales tax exemption for the construction of structures used solely as agricultural housing. Senate Bill 5396 would lower the threshold to 50% for agricultural housing, but only if used exclusively by non-H-2A farmworkers.

Rep. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, released the following statement on his opposition to the measure:

“All farmworkers deserve to be treated the same. We’ve heard the word ‘equity’ from the other side of the aisle quite a bit this session, but this bill is the opposite of that. It divides and separates.

“Growers in Washington state have long drawn on a shrinking pool of skilled farmworkers. Many have turned to the H-2A program for help. Last year, more than 25,000 skilled farmworkers took part in the program. Although most come from Mexico, others are from Canada, Jamaica, Guatemala, and even South Africa. Unless we are trying to further narrow the available labor pool for growers, it makes no sense to exclude H-2A workers from the exemptions in this bill.

“This skilled labor force puts food on the table for people across our state, the nation, and around the world. Are we saying they aren’t important enough to include in this bill? These housing tax exemptions should apply to all, not just some farmworkers. I’m deeply disappointed to see this measure pass.”

The federal H-2A agricultural program helps growers who anticipate a lack of available domestic labor to bring skilled farmworkers to the United States to take part in temporary or seasonal agricultural work including, but not limited to, planting, cultivating, or harvesting. Washington ranks in the top five in the nation for the number farmworkers hired under the H-2A program.

Senate Bill 5396 passed on a party-line vote of 57 to 41.


Washington State House Republican Communications