Funding from the American Rescue Plan is being set aside to provide assistance for farm employers with H-2A workers. Up to $65 million in support will be made available through a new pilot program that will be developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies. The announcement was made by President Joe Biden during the presentation of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection at the Summit of the Americas. Three key pillars of stabilization, legal pathways and protections, and humane migration movement have been identified as part of the multi-year program.
The White House indicated that grants will be provided to farm employers that employ farmworkers from Northern Central American countries through the H-2A visa program. Employers will be required to agree to additional protections that will benefit both U.S. and H-2A workers. Overall, the plan is intended to help bolster the resiliency of the food and agricultural supply chain. USDA points out that the food and agriculture industries contribute nearly $7 trillion to the U.S. economy, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all economic activity.
The pilot program will presumably expand the availability of agricultural workers, which will have a positive impact on food production and food security. USDA also noted that H-2A workers are critical for addressing labor issues within the agricultural sector. The new pilot program will be tasked with addressing challenges that both laborers and employers encounter with the H-2A program. USDA will also be working to improve working conditions to ensure that farmworkers are not being subjected to unfair recruitment practices.
USDA is intending to launch the new program sometime in early 2023 after working through the development phase. Opportunities for stakeholder feedback will be provided during the consultation process. the United Farm Workers of America will be a central partner in the development of the program, informing USDA on farmworker challenges through a technical assistance cooperative agreement.