Washington D.C.- Lot of talk in the nation’s capital about farm labor these days. Datatech which provides state of the art farm payroll software for clients across America is keenly interested in labor issues. Congressional leaders with the House Judiciary Committee brought in farmers and other House members to comment on the issue of the H-2A program for ag workers.
Suffice to say, no one was complementary of the H-2A program, citing what some say are the unrealistic wages, housing and travel requirements imposed upon ag employers. All were in agreement that change in this area of putting to work legally and stably, the immigrants already in America and otherwise, needs to be resolved for many reasons including providing a consistent healthy food supply.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) delivered remarks during Wednesday’s session of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee’s hearing on “Agricultural Guest Workers: Meeting the Growing Needs of American Agriculture.” “It is well past the time to replace the outdated and onerous H-2A program — to support those farmers who have demonstrated that they will endure substantial burdens and bureaucratic red-tape just to employ a fully legal workforce, and to offer a program that is amenable to even more participants in today’s agricultural economy,” said Goodlatte.
Goodlatte went on to say that he is about to propose to Congress what he calls a true guest worker program, “I have been in discussions with the agricultural community ever since the Committee reported the Ag Act over four years ago. The bill that I will shortly reintroduce makes a good faith attempt to take into account their comments and concerns. We cannot squander the golden opportunity we have with this Congress to enact meaningful agricultural guest worker reform.”
He said that this proposal does not create any special pathway to permanent legal status. He says the bill simply allows agricultural employers to hire – under the guest worker program – aliens who had been unlawfully present just as they can hire any other foreign nationals. They would be required to abide by the same conditions as other guest workers, including leaving the U.S. periodically to ensure that they retain ties with their home countries.
Time will tell whether Congress can come together on a workable solution to this vital need for agriculture.