House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced HR 6417 in July, calling for bipartisan support to “establish a guest-worker program for the dairy industry and mandate use of the federal E-Verify system to ensure all temporary, non-immigrant workers are vetted by the Department of Homeland Security.”
According to Goodlatte, the AG and Legal Workforce Act replaces the H-2A agricultural guestworker program, which he describes as outdated and broken, with a fresh, workable agricultural guestworker program. It will be known as the H-2C program and aims to ensure America’s farmers have access to a reliable workforce.
Reaching both sides of the aisle
The ADC released a statement of support for the bill, imploring Congress to swiftly pass it into law to improve the workforce problem within the agriculture industry.
More than 30,000 farmers are represented by the ADC and are facing an employment crisis. Even with rising wages and benefits, crucial agriculture jobs are getting more difficult to fill.
Currently, the agriculture industry is lacking a proper regulation system for vetting legal, foreign workers. HR 6417 would amend that with its E-Verify platform. Through it, guest workers undergo background checks, interviews and visa applications, verifying that none of the documents being used are fraudulent.
According to CEO Laurie Fischer, the ADC released this statement of support for the bill to reignite interest in legislators and build support. The bill currently has 103 co-sponsors, including four Democrats.
"We tried to move a vote on this bill before the House of Representatives left for their home districts during the August recess. We weren’t able to do that, but the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan promised we would get a vote when House Members returned in September," Fischer told DairyReporter.
“The AG Act must be passed concurrently with employee verification tools. Passing mandatory E-verify without allowing for a method for our nation’s farmers to secure reliable labor would be devastating to the sustainability of the dairy industry . We must have a solution to resolve both issues in a parallel fashion,” she said.
Goodlatte explained in his proposition that the Act will also provide a visa allocation to ensure labor needs are met. It allows for flexibility to minimize disruptions in farm operations, eliminates regulatory burdens, and contains effective accountability and enforcement provisions, supported by more than 200 agricultural groups.
“The AG and Legal Workforce Act addresses two of the most pressing issues facing our immigration system: illegal immigration and the need for a workable agricultural guestworker program for America’s farmers and ranchers,” Goodlatte said.
“[It] also creates a new, workable agricultural guestworker program to ensure labor demands are met and crops get to market on time. The bill incorporates many of the comments and concerns I have heard from the agriculture community over the past several years. When not enough Americans can be found to fill jobs, the bill ensures that American farmers have access to a reliable workforce to fill positions needed to keep their farms afloat.”