The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2020 homeland security spending bill that would allow farmers and ranchers to use the H-2A program for year-round agricultural jobs.
Currently, the H-2A program is allowed only for farm jobs that are temporary or seasonal in nature, like the harvesting of certain fruits or vegetables. The amendment changes no other aspects of the program. H-2A would remain a temporary program and the time limits a worker employed through the H-2A program can stay in the U.S. would continue, as would the requirement that farmers show they are advertising open positions and are trying to hire domestic workers first.
“What the amendment would do,” explained Allison Crittenden, American Farm Bureau Federation labor specialist, “is allow farmers with year-round jobs, like milking cows, to hire workers through H-2A. The workers would still be temporary, though the jobs they are filling are not.”
The bipartisan amendment was put forth by Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.). The lawmakers have paired up for the past few years on similar amendments to the homeland security spending bill, although the language was ultimately stripped from the legislation signed by the president.
“Farmers across the country appreciate Cuellar’s and Newhouse’s consistent leadership on this issue. We will continue to work with them and all members of Congress to establish an agricultural guest worker program that is flexible and affordable for farmers, fair to workers and effective in meeting the needs of all producers. We also need to provide current workers the opportunity to earn legal status,” Crittenden said.