Ag Policy Blog: Congressmen Push to Open Up H-2A Visas

7/13/2021 | 8:46 PM CDTBy Chris Clayton, DTN Ag Policy Editor

Guest workers under the H-2A program do not qualify to work on dairy operations because H-2A is only set up for season workers. An amendment to a funding bill would allow livestock operations to apply for those guest workers for Fiscal Year 2022, though the temporary timeframe would stay in place. (DTN file photo)
If it holds through Congress, an amendment added to a House appropriations bill could expand the ability to bring in agricultural guest workers for employment on farms.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., got language added to the appropriations bill for Homeland Security that would allow H-2A temporary guestworkers “to be accessed year-round for Fiscal Year 2022, opening the program to producers in all sectors of agriculture, including dairy, greenhouses, and other agricultural operations with year-round labor needs,” according to a news release from Newhouse.
The amendment was adopted by voice vote in the House Appropriations Committee.
“Our farmers and ranchers are in desperate need of a legal and reliable workforce,” Newhouse said. “Unfortunately, the H-2A program does not work for all of agriculture. As farming methods have become less seasonal or able to produce multiple harvests, the H-2A program must be updated to meet the needs of the agriculture industry. This amendment supports legal immigration while making H-2A more workable for farmers.”
The amendment is a little nuanced. H-2A would remain a temporary guestworker program. And the amount of time a worker can stay in the U.S. would not change. But the bill would open up other farmers such as livestock producers to apply for H-2A workers after they have met the requirements for local advertising and been unable to find workers.
As Newhouse noted, agriculture industry’s labor situation has been a concern for many years, and currently large segments of American agriculture face a critical shortage of workers. This shortfall is exacerbated by the fact that the H-2A program is not working for all of agriculture, such as dairies and agriculture operations with multiple crops and harvests.
Click here for the amendment text.
A more comprehensive agricultural labor bill passed the House earlier this year, but has not been taken up by the Senate.
House Ag to Mark Up Internet Bill
The House Agriculture Committee will meet Wednesday to consider the Broadband Internet Connections for Rural America Act (HR 4374).
“This bill will direct $50 billion toward critically needed infrastructure for rural broadband and also includes resources to ensure that this funding is used in a timely manner and accessible to rural communities with limited resources,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., said in a news release. Scott is the sponsor of the bill.
“Students without access to broadband, or those who relied on Internet-connected devices to work remotely, were severely disadvantaged in their ability to learn and succeed over the last year. Many businesses also relied on their broadband connection to continue operating and stay afloat during the pandemic. We must address this issue so that we are better prepared to compete in the 21st century and so that rural residents can choose to live where they want,” Scott said.

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