Rep. Goodlatte sponsors bill to create new agricultural guestworker rules

Bob Goodlatte
U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) unveiled a bill to create a new agricultural guestworker program for farmers and ranchers.

The Agricultural Guestworker Act, or the AG Act, would replace the H-2A guestworker program. The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs.

To qualify for H-2A nonimmigrant classification, the petitioner must: offer a job that is of a temporary or seasonal nature; demonstrate that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work; show that employing H-2A workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers; and generally, submit a single valid temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor with the H-2A petition.

The AG Act creates a new H-2C guestworker program designed to meet the needs of the diverse agriculture industry. Under the bill, the guestworker program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and covers year-round employers, like dairies, aquaculture operations, food processors, and others. Further, the AG Act allows experienced unauthorized agricultural workers to continue working in agriculture and provides more flexibility to farmers with respect to housing, transportation, and touchback periods.

“For far too long, the broken H-2A guestworker program has buried American farmers in red tape and excessive costs without delivering access to a stable and reliable workforce,” Goodlatte said. “It’s clear that the current program is outdated and broken for American farmers, and it’s well past the time to replace it with a reliable, efficient, and fair program that provides American farmers access to a legal, stable supply of workers, both in the short- and long-term, for seasonal as well as year-round work.”