Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has unveiled the AG Act to create a new, workable agricultural guestworker program for America’s farmers and ranchers.
The Agricultural Guestworker Act, or the AG Act, replaces the outdated and broken H-2A guestworker program with a reliable, efficient, and fair program and will be marked up by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The H-2A program is widely known to be expensive, time-consuming, and flawed. Each year, employers using the H-2A program have to comply with a lengthy labor certification process that is slow and plagued with red tape. As a result of complying with H-2A regulations, employers using the program almost always find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace.
To provide American farmers with access to a legal, stable supply of workers, the AG Act creates a new H-2C guestworker program designed to meet the needs of the diverse agriculture industry. Under the bill, the guestworker program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and covers year-round employers, like dairies, aquaculture operations, food processors, and others. Further, the AG Act allows experienced unauthorized agricultural workers to continue working in agriculture and provides more flexibility to American farmers with respect to housing, transportation, and touchback periods.
“For far too long, the broken H-2A guestworker program has buried American farmers in red tape and excessive costs without delivering access to a stable and reliable workforce,” Goodlatte said. “It’s clear that the current program is outdated and broken for American farmers, and it’s well past the time to replace it with a reliable, efficient, and fair program that provides American farmers access to a legal, stable supply of workers, both in the short- and long-term, for seasonal as well as year-round work.”
“Every year, farmers and ranchers face greater challenges in finding enough workers to keep their businesses running. The labor shortage on America’s farms and ranches is growing, and the lack of a stable, legal supply of workers places the health of too many farms at risk. We cannot afford to see any more of our nation’s food supply lost in the fields,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “The Ag Act’s proposed guest worker visa program would bring much needed improvements to the current system while addressing the needs of our current workforce and providing a streamlined visa process for skilled, agricultural workers in the future. Although Farm Bureau members have concerns on certain points, such as capping the number of visas, we stand ready to work with Chairman Goodlatte and members of Congress to refine these provisions for the good of all U.S. agriculture.”