Western Growers React to H2A Changes
Western Growers have looked at the proposed changes coming to the H-2A temporary ag guestworker visa program announced by the USDA. And while the group says the changes look good Congress needs to write them into law.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny told reporters the USDA has been working with the Department of Labor for over a year and trying to help the H2A program become more workable.
"It's been very onerous very inflexible for these growers to comply with all the rules and regulations. You had to tell them exactly which days a worker was going to be needed. Gruit may be ready two weeks early or two weeks late and you're left with people either not having work to do or hanging around waiting for something to happen."
Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif issued a statement saying Congress has to do more.
His statement reads in part: While we encourage swift implementation of these important modernizations to the agricultural guest worker program, we also urge Congress to codify these changes into law as we have seen previous regulatory progress reversed by ensuing administrations. Furthermore, legislation will be required to address the pressing need agricultural employers have to retain their existing workforce."
Changes include a streamlined application process and to the methodology used to determine wages paid to workers.
Rep. Rick Crawford is pushing the Agricultural Guest Worker Reform Initiative, or AGRI Act. The bill transfers jurisdiction for agricultural guest workers from the U.S. Department of Labor to the USDA, which he says will make the program more accessible to farmers. The AGRI Act would require workers to return to their country of origin for one month following every 10 months of labor in the U.S