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Hyde-Smith Leads Bipartisan Group Seeking Longer Comment Period on Major Ag Worker Program Reforms

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is leading a bipartisan group of Senators in asking two federal agencies to give farmers and ranchers more time to review and comment on significant reforms to the H-2A temporary agricultural workers program.

In letters to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, the Senators request a 60-day public comment extension for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed rulemaking, “Modernizing H-2 Program Requirements, Oversight, and Worker Protections88 FR 65040,” and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed rulemaking,  “Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States88 FR 63750.”

“The United States takes pride in producing the world’s safest, most abundant, and most affordable food supply.  Our nation’s ability to do so is entirely contingent on the strength of our agricultural workforce.  The H-2A program provides a critical labor pool without which many producers in our states would struggle or be entirely unable to operate,” the Senators wrote.

“Any proposed regulatory changes to the H-2A program have potential ramifications for the entire American agricultural supply chain and food security.  Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that our constituents be provided adequate time to thoroughly analyze this proposed rule and its effects on their operations.  Moreover, this comment period is occurring while many producers in our states will be occupied with fall harvest and unable to dedicate time to developing meaningful comments,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letters were signed by Hyde-Smith and U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), James Risch (R-Idaho), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Angus King, Jr. (I-Maine), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Kennedy (R-La.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), and Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.).

The Senators’ requests were prompted by farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural stakeholders in their states who are increasingly concerned that DHS and DOL will finalize the rules before they can fully assess and comment on the new federal mandates on agricultural employers.  They also noted that four other regulatory actions of interest to these stakeholders have comment periods ending during the comment period of the DOL and DHS proposed regulations.

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition sent similar letters to DHS and DOL.  This coalition consists of a large number of agriculture organizations from across the nation, among them Mississippi’s Delta Council, the Mississippi Rice Council, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Council of Agricultural Employers, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers, National Onion Association, National Potato Council, U.S. Rice Producers Association, and USA Rice.

Read the signed letter to Mayorkas here.  Read the signed letter to Su here.

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