House Lawmakers Introduce New Ag Guest Worker Bill

Labor is one of the most critical issues in livestock production, so a new guest worker program would be a benefit for producers. ( Farm Journal )

Bipartisan legislation, supported by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), is designed to replace the seasonal H-2A agricultural visa with a year-round agricultural guest worker visa. It was introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

NPPC and more than 200 other agricultural organizations support the “AG and Legal Workforce Act” (H.R. 6417), which is similar to legislation approved by the House Judiciary Committee last fall.

The new bill is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Reps. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., Michael Conaway, R-Texas, Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, John Katko, R-N.Y., Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Mark Walker, R-N.C.

The bill would allow 450,000 foreign workers under a new H-2C visa, including 40,000 for packing plants, to remain in the U.S. for up to three years. The number of visas would automatically increase in any year the cap is reached.

The bill also would require all U.S. employers to use the federal E-Verify program, a web-based system that allows employers to confirm the eligibility of employees to work in the U.S. The new visa would be under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture rather than the Labor Department.