Farm Bureau supports proposals that provide access to a legal and stable workforce for agriculture’s needs now and in the future. First, agriculture needs a new flexible visa program administered by USDA that provides flexibility for employers and workers by allowing contract and at-will employment options to address both seasonal and year-round needs. This ensures future stability and can be used to fill shortages when domestic workers are not available. Second, for short-term stability, the proposal must include an earned legal status for experienced, but unauthorized, agricultural workers.
New Worker Visa Program
Farm Bureau believes that long-term workforce stability will come through the creation of a new streamlined, flexible visa program that follows how the domestic market operates. This program would replace the cumbersome H-2A program. Our proposal would shift management of the program from the Labor Department to the Agriculture Department, putting it where agriculture’s needs are more likely to be understood. Farmers would be permitted to offer workers either contract or at-will employment. All workers would be allowed to continue with an employer for as long as the employer has a need – up to three years. This allows farmers who have year-round labor needs to use the program and avoid disrupting their essential business operations. This program recognizes real-life workforce challenges and provides the flexibility and stability that most domestic workers enjoy.
Adjustment of Status
Farm workers should earn legal status, by following strict requirements. These could include showing proof of steady employment in agriculture, paying taxes, passing a criminal background check and paying a fine. This plan also provides a probationary period requiring individuals to become right with the law.
The reality is that a majority of farm workers are in the U.S. illegally, largely because Congress has ignored the shortcomings of the existing agricultural worker program. It’s time to deal with reality. But farmers must be able to keep their experienced workers – their trustworthy, right-hand men and women who have worked with them for years and can get the work of the farm done. Our proposal offers a tough but fair solution for these workers and their employers. Enforcement is an important part of the solution, but not the whole solution.