Representative Dan Newhouse says while many of the details have yet to be worked out, legislation introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte is an important first step to address ag’s labor shortage. The Republican from Virginia introduced the American Guestworker Act, or AG Act, which replacing the H-2A program with a new, flexible and market-driven guestworker program designed to meet the needs of the diverse agriculture industry.
According to Goodlatte, the bill would create a new H-2C guestworker program under which foreign workers would be allowed an initial stay of 36 months. Subsequent visas for year-round agricultural jobs and all other H-2C visas would afford a work period of 18 months.
Newhouse, who has been working on similar legislation, said H-2Cs would take the agriculture community to a much better place.
“I think this will be a very good step forward. As you know, immigration reform is a huge issue in our area. A day does not go by that I do not hear from someone that is having a very difficult time attracting the labor force that they need in this harvest period.”
The AG Act would allow current undocumented ag workers to get an H-2C visa and provides for 500,000 H-2C visas a year with allowances to adjust that number depending on agricultural labor needs. The program also would give employers the option to provide housing and transportation for their workers, currently required under the H-2A program.
In addition, the H-2C program would be administered by the USDA.
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