H-2A Reform at USDA

H-2A Reform at USDA

Bob Larson
Bob Larson
From the Ag Information Network, I’m Bob Larson with today’s Fruit Grower Report. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says he’s not waiting around for Congress to reform the H-2A farm guest worker program but is starting his department’s own program.

Vilsack says the approach to migrant farm labor amid the new House GOP majority might be a bit different …

VILSACK … “Now, while I hope that our Congressional friends take action to address the systemic challenges that growers and farm workers face, I’m committed to doing everything we can here at USDA.”

Using existing resources …

VILSACK … “Leveraging resources, again, under the American Rescue Plan, we, in coordination with other federal agencies, are developing a farmworker pilot program to provide support, a set of incentives for agriculture employers to hire H-2A workers from North and Central American countries. Committed as well, to a set of robust labor standards—a goal which I believe all of us share.”

Many Republicans remain opposed to immigration reform, arguing border security must come first. But Vilsack says the pandemic taught us some key lessons …

VILSACK … “The pandemic highlighted the challenges of labor instability, the challenges of irregular migration, and the need for increased labor protections. And all of these challenges need to be addressed to increase the resiliency of our food system and supply chain.”

A Senate H-2A reform bill in December, backed by more than 350 food, farmer and farmworker groups, failed to gain traction, attracting little GOP support.

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