The Industry Responds to the H-2A Revisions
- by Kayla Webb
UNITED STATES - This week, the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration and Wage and Hour Division, announced it was proposing changes to improve the H-2A temporary agricultural labor certification program. The changes are intended to modernize the regulations, enhance employer access to a legal source of agricultural labor, and protect the U.S. workforce.
“President Trump once again shows his commitment to helping America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers continue to be the most productive in the world by increasing their access to a stable and legal workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, according to a USDA press release. “The proposed rule will increase access to a reliable legal agricultural workforce, easing unnecessary burdens on farmers, increase enforcement against fraud and abuse, all while maintaining protections for America’s workers. When this rule goes into effect, our farmers will be released from unnecessary and burdensome regulations allowing them to do what they do best.”
In addition to Secretary Perdue, other leaders in our industry stepped forward to voice their approval for the revisions, including Western Growers’ President and CEO Tom Nassif.
“We appreciate the emphasis the Administration has placed on resolving agriculture’s ongoing labor challenges, and their efforts to incorporate feedback from agricultural employers into the proposed H-2A reforms,” Nassif stated. “While we encourage swift implementation of these important modernizations to the agricultural guest worker program, we also urge Congress to codify these changes into law as we have seen previous regulatory progress reversed by ensuing administrations. Furthermore, legislation will be required to address the pressing need agricultural employers have to retain their existing workforce.”
According to the Department of Labor’s proposal, some of the changes that are being advocated for include streamlining the H-2A application process by mandating electronic filing of job orders and applications, promoting the use of digital signatures, and providing employers with the option of staggering the entry of workers on a single application. The changes also focus on enhancing standards applicable to rental housing and public accommodations and updating the methodologies used to determine the Adverse Effect Wage Rates and prevailing wages to ensure U.S. workers similarly employed are not adversely impacted.
In response to these changes, the United Fresh Produce Association also issued a statement, both applauding the efforts and seconding Nassif’s call to action to Congress.
“United Fresh Produce Association appreciates the Administration’s efforts to make regulatory changes that can improve efficiencies in the H-2A program. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking includes a number of changes to the H-2A program that were supported by United Fresh and our members,” United Fresh commented. “We encourage the Administration to finalize these new productive H-2A reforms after the notice and comment period has ended. In particular, United Fresh is pleased with the electronic filing and digital signature proposal along with staggering entry of H-2A workers on a single application.”
United Fresh continued, “Despite these improvements, we all understand a complete overall of the current guest worker program is needed which will require Congress to make those changes through legislation. In addition, we must find a solution to the current workforce which will work hand in hand with an improved H-2A program. We implore Congress and all interested stakeholders to stay at the table and continue to find a legislative path forward for this type of reform. United Fresh and our members stand ready to continue these discussions and will work with our members across the country to support legislation that accomplishes these goals.”
To read a copy of the Department of Labor’s proposal, click here.
As more updates file in regarding the H-2A visa and other ag-related programs, AndNowUKnow will continue to report.