Foreign labor needs of the US ag sector are not being met, including by the outmoded and overly complicated H2-A guest worker visa program, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing yesterday.
Chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) indicated that she wants to pass a standalone ag labor bill that would provide a path to legal status for existing workers who are in the country illegally as well as to reform H-2A.
Lofgren called the issue a “matter of national security,” citing the rising amount of imported food, which she said was due at least in part to a shortage of U.S. labor.
Rep. J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), said he wanted to “make sure that we continue to be the breadbasket of the world. We have to continue to focus on agriculture and take care of agriculture.”
Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Calif.), said that expanding the H-2A visa program to include year-round workers, a high priority for the dairy industry, would be “such a simple fix.”
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, said “the current H2A program, is simply unsustainable. Congress has the ability, and the responsibility, to enact a reasonable agricultural guest-worker program so growers can pay legal workers a fair wage and also make a fair living themselves.
USDA on Wednesday took a step aimed at making H-2A easier for farmers to use by announcing a webpage at Farmers.gov that producers can use to start the application process. Farmers provide the date they need workers to start and then receive a checklist of steps they need to take, with links to required documents.