The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released a joint cabinet statement on modernizing the H-2A temporary agricultural visa program. In response, Western Growers’ President and CEO Tom Nassif issued the following statement:
“Any effort to simplify and streamline the federal government’s visa program for agricultural foreign workers – the H-2A program – will be welcomed by our members.
“While we do not know what the end result will be of the process that begins today, we are hopeful it will enable greater utilization of the H-2A program by the fresh produce industry. We would hope this process will lead to changes in several areas of the existing program, including changes that would accomplish the following:
- modernize and reduce unnecessary cost of recruitment methods;
- improve the scope and accuracy of prevailing wage surveys;
- simplify the application process;
- incorporate greater flexibility for movement of workers to respond to production needs;
- clarify interpretations of seasonality; and
- streamline the approval process for housing and transportation.
“While this effort to implement administrative changes are most welcome, key aspects of the H-2A program can only be modified by statute. We have grown accustomed to fluctuations in the program’s processes with each administration. Indeed, administrative improvements undertaken by one administration can be, and are, undone by the next, as was done by the prior administration.
“Though we do support changes to the H-2A program to make the process more efficient, we are concerned with the suggestion that E-Verify would be a part of this proposal. Changes to H-2A should be made to improve the system for the use of all, and any implication that necessary reforms would be limited to those that use E-Verify is concerning.
“This is why we continue to call on Congress to enact immigration reform legislation that provides a workable path to legalization for our existing workforce and creates a new guest worker visa program to ensure ready access to an adequate supply of labor in the future. Only then can America’s fresh produce farmers plan for long-term sustainability.”