Oct 3, 2017
Congressman unveils new Agricultural Guestworker Act

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has unveiled a bill to create a new agricultural guest-worker program for farmers and ranchers.

The Agricultural Guestworker Act, or the AG Act, would replace the H-2A guest-worker program and will be marked up by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte

The AG Act creates a new H-2C guest-worker program designed to meet the needs of the agriculture industry, according to Congressman Goodlatte. Under the bill, the guest-worker 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 a full summary of the AG Act, click here and for bill text click here.

“For far too long, the broken H-2A guest-worker program has buried American farmers in red tape and excessive costs without delivering access to a stable and reliable workforce,” Congressman 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 “It’s clear that the current program is outdated and broken for American farmers, and it’s well past the time to replace it with a reliable, efficient, and fair program that provides American farmers access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.”

The National Potato Council has issued a statement supporting the AG Act.

“‘We view this first step by Chairman Goodlatte as very positive for finally dealing with this growing ag labor crisis,’ said NPC CEO John Keeling. ‘We appreciate his willingness to kick this off and desire to address agriculture’s current and future labor needs once and for all.’

“It is anticipated that the new program will have an enhanced role for the Department of Agriculture, streamline various outdated or unresponsive features of the current H-2A program and provide an opportunity for year-round operations such as dairies to participate.

“Along with a guest-worker program that responds to the needs of agriculture, a full solution to the ag labor crisis must also include legal status for the current workforce along with a strong enforcement mechanism to ensure that all parties play by the rules.

“The National Potato Council is part of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, which represents labor-dependent American agriculture on legislation to address the agricultural labor crisis.”

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