The National Pork Producers Council called on Congress to include language to expand the existing H-2A visa to year-round ag laborers in a budget reconciliation bill, set to get voted on Monday in the House. Like many sectors of the economy, the U.S. pork industry is faced with a severe labor shortage. But even before COVID-19, the industry was having trouble filling jobs, a situation generally attributable to urbanization and an aging rural population. The tight labor market prompted the pork sector to rely on foreign-born workers.
“The U.S. pork industry is highly dependent on foreign-born workers, but current visa programs don’t provide access to enough workers to meet the labor needs on our farms and in packing plants,” says NPPC President Jen Sorenson. “We need a dedicated year-round workforce.” The group wants lawmakers to open the current H-2A temporary and seasonal worker visa program to year-round labor, without a limit on the annual number of visas, and to provide legal status for agricultural workers already in the country. Legislation approved earlier this year in the House would expand the program to year-round workers but cap the number of visas that can get issued each year.