Agriculture Reacts to Guestworker Program Proposal – House Ag Chair says Farm Bill Still on Track – Audio

    The National Milk Producers Federation says it supports the efforts by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and the House Judiciary Committee to pass legislation creating a guestworker program that provides a new opportunity for immigration reform in agriculture.
The committee today approved the Agriculture Guestworker (AG) Act (H.R. 4092), which would establish an entirely new visa program, dubbed the H-2C visa, to allow farm employers to hire foreign workers on a year-round basis. The measure was developed by Rep. Goodlatte after NMPF provided input to the committee about the workforce needs of America’s dairy farms.
Although not ideal, the AG Act “helps advance our efforts to assure a stable, dependable and legal workforce for America’s dairy farmers, now and in the future,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “The AG Act is the first step in a long process of establishing a workable solution for dairy farmers’ labor needs. It recognizes that we must improve on the current system by pursuing a new approach to matching the supply and demand for workers in U.S. agriculture.”
Goodlatte’s bill would replace the existing H-2A temporary visa program, which dairy farmers largely cannot use because their labor needs are year-round, not seasonal. In addition to establishing the new visa for future farm workers, it would allow currently undocumented farm workers to apply for H-2C visas so that they can participate legally in the agricultural workforce.
While the version of the legislation marked up in committee requires further improvements, Mulhern said that overall, the AG Act bill “merits the support of America’s farming community, and its refinement and passage must be a priority for congressional leaders.”
     Following the House Judiciary Committee approval of the AG Act (H.R. 4092), which would replace the flawed H-2A guestworker program to help provide American farmers with access to a legal, steady supply of workers, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) made the below remarks:
“It’s time for an ag worker program that both respects our nation’s immigration laws and keeps American agriculture competitive. As a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Mr. Goodlatte understands the challenges facing farmers and ranchers. His bill cuts red tape and institutes a flexible program that accounts for the different labor needs of various producers – be it the ongoing needs of a dairy operation or the seasonal needs of specialty crop farmers. I look forward to working with the ag community and Chairman Goodlatte to help shepherd this legislation through the House.”
Meanwhile, Conaway told reporters yesterday that lawmakers are still on track to get a farm bill across the finish line next year.
Take a Listen:  Farm Bill Still on Track