Changes to guestworker program proposed

Virginia congressman unveils the AG Act as a replacement for the H-2A program.

By Deana Stroisch

A Virginia congressman’s proposed new guestworker program would bring “much-needed improvements” to the immigration system, said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation’s president.

“Every year, farmers and ranchers face greater challenges in finding enough workers to keep their businesses running,” Duvall said. “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.”


On Monday, U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., unveiled The Agricultural Guestworker Act, or the AG Act, which he said will replace the “flawed H-2A program with a new, flexible and market-driven guestworker program.” Goodlatte serves as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which will mark up the bill this week.

The bill calls for USDA to administer the guestworker program, which would apply to year-round employers, such as dairies, aquaculture operations and food processors. The bill also would provide farmers with more flexibility with 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 “It’s clear that the current program is outdated and broken for American farmers, and it’s well past the time to replace it with a reliable, efficient, and fair program that provides American farmers access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.”

Duvall said Farm Bureau has concerns on some parts of the bill, such as capping the number of visas, but “we stand ready to work with Chairman Goodlatte and members of Congress to refine these provisions for the good of all U.S. agriculture.”

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