Potential For Year-Round H-2A Access on The Horizon

Brian German Agri-Business, Labor and Immigration

A bipartisan amendment that was approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee will allow for year-round H-2A access. While the year-round availability would be temporary, it would help address critical labor challenges in agriculture. Introduced by Representatives Dan Newhouse and Henry Cuellar, the amendment creates an opportunity for agricultural operations to better engage with the H-2A program. Year-round H-2A access would be especially important for dairy operations that are largely unable to use the guest worker program.

H-2A Access

“Our farmers and ranchers are in desperate need of a legal and reliable workforce,” Newhouse said in a press release. “Unfortunately, the H-2A program does not work for all of agriculture. As farming methods have become less seasonal or able to produce multiple harvests, the H-2A program must be updated to meet the needs of the agriculture industry. This amendment supports legal immigration while making H-2A more workable for farmers.”

Much of the same parameters for the H-2A program would remain the same under the amendment. Farmers would still be required to seek domestic employees first. The time period that temporary guest workers are allowed to remain in the U.S. would also remain the same. But the amendment would allow H-2A access to several areas of agriculture previously unable to participate in the program.

The amendment was added to the Fiscal Year 2022 Homeland Security Appropriations Act. It remains unknown if the amendment will make it into the final version of the bill. However, industry groups are hopeful that its bipartisan nature can lead to further progress on addressing agricultural labor challenges.

“We urge Congress not to delay providing dairy farmers with access to the H-2A program during a time of critical labor needs,” National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in a news release. “Beyond just providing dairy temporary access to the H-2A program, the measure is important because we must continue to build momentum for ag labor reform as we await a Senate measure that carries forward and improves upon the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West