House Judiciary Committee approves ‘Agricultural Guestworker Program’ bill
Washington, D.C. - The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved the Agricultural Guestworker "AG" Act (H.R. 1773) in a vote of 20-16. This bill creates a new temporary agricultural guestworker program to provide American farmers with access to a reliable workforce.
The AG Act is one of several bills the House Judiciary Committee has introduced to address problems within our immigration system. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chief sponsor of the AG Act, praised today's Committee vote.
Chairman Goodlatte: "Today's passage of the AG Act takes us one step closer to providing American farmers with a workable and reliable guestworker program. For far too long, American farmers have faced unnecessary hurdles and excessive red tape when hiring foreign workers under the current H-2A program. The AG Act replaces this broken program with a new, sensible guestworker program that is designed to boost the modern agricultural labor market as needed.
"In contrast to the current, bureaucrat-driven H-2A program, the new guestworker program created under the AG Act is a market-based approach that removes red tape, streamlines access to a reliable workforce, and protects farmers from abusive lawsuits. It also allows more participation in the guestworker program by opening it up to dairies and food processors, both of which often need access to foreign labor. In addition, the AG Act is good for those seeking a better life for their families by providing opportunities to earn a living while temporarily working in agricultural jobs U.S. citizens are not willing to do.
"By putting farmers in the driver's seat rather than Washington bureaucrats, they will be better equipped to compete in the global economy and continue growing our crops. It is vital that American farmers have access to a workable guestworker program now so that they can continue putting food on Americans' tables."
Key Components of the AG Act:
Eliminates Excessive Red Tape: The new temporary agricultural guestworker program removes barriers and excessive paperwork farmers face in hiring foreign workers. If a grower is designated as a registered agricultural employer by USDA and agrees to the terms and obligations of participating in the program, then they can easily hire guestworkers already admitted to the U.S. without having to file yet another petition for the individual worker. The new guestworker program's petition process is also attestation based, meaning that farmers will no longer face unnecessary, government-imposed red tape during the process.
Protects Farmers from Abusive Litigation: In order to discourage frivolous and abusive litigation against growers, growers may require as a condition of employment that guestworkers be subject to binding arbitration and mediation of any grievances in relation to the employment relationship. This bill also eliminates special treatment for the Legal Services Corporation.
Enacts Market-Based Approach to Meet Demand and Supply: The bill eliminates the artificial government-imposed wage rate that is part of the current temporary agricultural guestworker program and replaces it with the market-based prevailing wage rate or the state minimum wage-whichever is greater.
Helps American Farmers Keep Up with Global Competitors: The new guestworker program will allow American growers to better compete in the global economy by removing the exorbitant costs associated with abusive litigation, excessive regulation, and artificially high, government-imposed wage rates.
Farmer Friendly: The bill designates the Department of Agriculture to administer the new guestworker program rather than the Department of Labor. USDA is better equipped to help farmers and better understands their needs.
Protects Taxpayers: Under the new program, guestworkers are not eligible for Obamacare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, or other welfare programs.