More news on IMMIGRATION REFORM. From the American Dairy Coaltion comes news of movement forward on the Ag Act:
AG Act Continues to Gain Support
The Agriculture Guestworker Act (AG Act) continues to gain support as it moves toward an anticipated vote on the House floor next month. Recently, Chairman of the Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows announced he is pushing for the AG Act.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall has called upon lawmakers to support the Ag Act, describing it as “far superior” to the existing program.
“We are at a crisis point in agriculture,” Duvall said in a Tuesday statement. “For farmers in sectors like dairy, mushrooms and others, who are excluded from H-2A and have nowhere else to turn, the H-2C program offers a path forward in meeting their future labor needs”.
As a push back to the American Farm Bureau Federation and other major agriculture groups’ support of the AG Act, the California Farm Bureau announced earlier this week that it could not support Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Robert Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) legislation – saying it “would actually worsen chronic agricultural employee shortages.”
However, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has also expressed support of the bill. Perdue, during his California tour this week, said immigration reform was the “obvious answer” in the face of agricultural labor shortages and growing uncertainty for immigrant workers. He said Goodlatte’s bill includes a provision creating a long-term path to citizenship.
Last month, Perdue expressed concern that if Goodlatte’s bill was not part of a broader immigration package, he didn’t see another opportunity in the near future to address labor shortages. Chairman Goodlatte remains responsive to concerns regarding the bill from the agriculture industry.
Recently proposed changes to the AG Act would offer farmers more time to comply with mandatory E-Verify, which requires employers to electronically check that all hired workers are legal. It also addresses concerns that the maximum visa term is insufficient – extending the visa term from 18 months to 24 months. This change would also increase the number of visa recipients that can be in the program after the first year.
Refresher on the AG Act
The proposed legislation would scrap the current H-2A program, partially housed in the Labor Department, in favor of an H-2C program that would be handled by the USDA. The bill would allow agricultural employers – such as meat processors, dairy farmers and loggers – in need of year-round work to apply. This is a sharp difference from the current program that offers guest-worker visas for temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs that last under 10 months.