Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, today unveiled a bill to create a new agricultural guestworker program for America’s farmers and ranchers. The Agricultural Guestworker Act, or the AG Act, replaces the H-2A guestworker program.
The AG Act creates a new H-2C guestworker program designed to meet the needs of the diverse agriculture industry. Under the bill, the guestworker 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 guestworker program has buried American farmers in red tape and excessive costs without delivering access to a stable and reliable workforce," says Goodlatte. "It’s clear that the current program is outdated and broken for American farmers, and it’s well past the time to replace it with a reliable, efficient, and fair program that provides American farmers access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 AG Act replaces the flawed H-2A program with a new, flexible, and market-driven guestworker program that is designed to meet the needs of the diverse agriculture industry when not enough American workers can be found."
Goodlatte commended the ag community for providing insight to development of the bill. One of those organizations is the American Dairy Coalition. “We commend Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s dedication, understanding and ambition to provide a legal guest-worker program that will provide a legal guestworker status to those who have the work ethic to withstand labor intense jobs on the farm,” Laurie Fischer, CEO of the American Dairy Coalition said.
The bill will be marked up by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, October 4. “Agriculture needs to unite in support of the AG Act to work with our country's leadership to pass this vital piece of legislation," says John Jacobs, President of the American Dairy Coalition and farm owner. "Agriculture has a labor shortage and the AG Act will provide a critical legal guestworker program that agriculture and the dairy industry desperately needs.”