WASHINGTON D.C. — Fourth Congressional District Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Yakima, recently joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing a bill that if passed would rework the controversial agricultural guestworker program.
The bipartisan Ag and Legal Workforce Act was introduced by Newhouse, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.
“The current labor shortage facing farmers must be improved by fixing the legal guest worker program. Farmers and our rural economy are being harmed by the current bureaucratic system that is not even available to all of agriculture,” Newhouse stated.
The measure, if passed, would replace the H-2A agricultural guestworker program, which gives employers the ability to hire foreign workers on temporary work permits for jobs in the agricultural industry that last 10 months or less. The replacement program, dubbed the “H-2C Program,” would be open to seasonal/year-round employers and provide a visa allocation, eliminate onerous regulations and also contains accountability/enforcement provisions, which are supported by over 200 national agricultural groups.
Per the bill, all employers would be required to use E-Verify, which is an internet-based program that “protects jobs for legal workers,” according to a release from Newhouse’s office.
“In order to continue domestic production of our own safe and affordable food in the U.S., Congress must pass legislation to reform our guest worker program and provide a stable, legal workforce for agriculture. I applaud the Speaker and Majority Leader for their commitment to bring this to the floor.”