Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives would transfer jurisdiction for agricultural guest workers from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture. The bill comes as the labor Department Monday opened a comment period on proposed rulemaking changes to the program. The changes “strengthen protections” for workers. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Guest Worker Reform Initiative, or AGRI Act, introduced by Arkansas Republican Rick Crawford, would transfer the program to USDA which is “better equipped” to address the need for temporary workers and will make the program more accessible to farmers.
The legislation would also allow employers to offer market-based contracts and wages, and increase the security of the program by requiring workers to return to their country of origin for one month following every 10 months of labor in the United States. By returning, workers payroll taxes will be refundable at the U.S. consulate in their home country. The legislation also requires the Department of Homeland Security to provide guest workers with a traceable, biometric ID card.