Action on a bill that would ease the regulatory burden of agricultural labor is possible when Congress returns this week. That work on is on lawmakers’ agenda in the form of the Ag and Legal Workforce Act of 2018, supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation. It would replace the H-2A program with a new H-2C program, according to AFBF’s public policy managing director Paul Schlegel.
“The advantages of the new program are it’s open to all of agriculture,” he said. “It is less bureaucratic for farmers, it reduces unnecessary recruitment obligation, moves enforcement to USDA, takes it out of the Department of Labor. The other major aspect of the bill is it would mandate the E-Verify system nationwide.”
Lawmakers have just 19 in-session days to consider the bill before another break ahead of the November elections. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote but AFBF is hopeful for a vote in September.
“There are things that we would like to see improved if we can do it. But, if you look at the policy our delegates have enunciated on what they want in a guest worker program, the bill comes very, very close to that. We’ve been trying to get a meaningful change in guest worker programs for over two decades now and we want to make sure with this opportunity that we don’t lose it and that we can get a bill passed by the House.”
Schlegel says the bill provides much-needed relief for farmers since there is a real crisis or a demand for labor within the agricultural sector. He said the bill provides a program for which everyone is eligible, and it also relieves the anxiety that farmers have in making sure that their workers are legal.