House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has introduced the Agricultural Guestworker Act. The legislation would replace the H-2A program with H-2C – a new program that modernizes and streamlines the agricultural guestworker program. The Food Manufacturers Immigration Council praised the introduction of the legislation – saying it would assist in establishing a stable workforce that can help sustain the rural communities where farmers, ranchers and food manufacturers grow and process the nation’s and world’s food supply. The coalition says the introduction of the House legislation and the bill introduced in the Senate are important first steps in the immigration reform process.
The existing temporary programs for general labor skilled workers are for seasonal labor only. The coalition says the H-2C program would offer workers and employers more choices in their employment arrangements – creating more flexibility and making it easier for workers to move freely throughout the marketplace to meet demands. They say the new program will support food manufacturers, cattle operations, dairies, hog and poultry farms and other year-round agricultural employers.
The H-2C program would give employers the opportunity to invest their time in training workers for jobs by allowing them an initial stay of 36 months. Workers would then be required to leave for up to three months. After the period of leave – each H-2C visa holder would only be required to leave once every 18 months. This – the coalition says – would provide farm labor stability and encourage illegal farm workers to identify themselves and participate in the H-2C program.
According to the coalition – an effective occupational visa system may be the most important barrier to illegal immigration. The coalition says the Agricultural Guestworker Act and the creation of the H-2C program would serve the diverse interests of the ag and food manufacturing industries – and boost the modern ag labor market.