The U.S. House Judiciary Committee and Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) on July 18 introduced a revised proposal to create an agricultural guest worker program. The Ag and Legal Workforce Act (bill / fact sheet) would create a new H-2C program to give farmers and ranchers access to a reliable workforce. It is similar to the Ag Act proposal that Congress failed to pass back in June, but with several revisions.
The proposal has the backing of more than 200 agricultural organizations, including the Oregon Association of Nurseries. It would allow experienced but unauthorized workers to participate in the program, giving them a path forward to get right with the law.
The H2C workers would not count against caps on the numbers of workers allowed in the country each year, nor would H2A and H2B. It would also abolish the I-9 form and require that, going forward, all U.S. employers use the E-Verify program to confirm work-eligible employees. Provisions would be phased in, with larger employers going first and agriculture and small employers last.
Overall, OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone considers this new bill an improvement over the one that failed. “What we hear from our members is that we need a stable and willing workforce and this bill provides an agricultural visa,” Stone said. “This bill is by no means perfect but the time is now for Congress to act and provide a solution to the agricultural industry’s labor shortage”