Coalition Applauds Introduction of Agricultural Worker Bill30 April 2013
US - The Food Manufacturers Immigration Coalition praised the introduction of legislation that would assist in establishing a stable workforce that can help sustain the rural communities where farmers, ranchers and food manufacturers grow and process the nation’s and world’s food supply.
“The introduction of this legislation, and the bill introduced in the Senate, are important first steps in the immigration reform process, which will be a dynamic debate featuring many proposals to reform our flawed immigration process,” the coalition said.
“We commend Chairman Goodlatte, and we look forward to working on a comprehensive approach to immigration reform.”
The “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., replaces the impractical H-2A programme with a sensible guestworker programme. The new programme, known as H-2C, modernises and streamlines the agricultural guestworker programme and would be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal agency that understands the unique needs of America’s food manufacturers and farm and ranch operations.
The existing temporary programmes for general labour skilled workers are for seasonal labor only. Under the “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” the H-2C programme would offer workers and employers more choices in their employment arrangements, creating more flexibility and making it easier for workers to move freely throughout the marketplace to meet demands.
This new programme will support food manufacturers, cattle operations, dairies, hog and poultry farms and other year-round agricultural employers.
“An effective occupational visa system may be the most important barrier to illegal immigration,” the coalition said.
“The right visa system with the right screening tools will in effect be a ‘virtual border.’ The ‘Agricultural Guestworker Act’ and the creation of the H-2C programme would serve the diverse interests of the agriculture and food manufacturing industries and will boost the modern agriculture labour market.”
Since not all agriculture jobs are the same or require the same level of skill and experience, the H-2C programme would give employers the opportunity to invest their time in training workers for jobs by allowing them an initial stay of 36 months. Workers would then be required to leave for up to three months. After the period of leave, each H-2C visa holder would only be required to leave once every 18 months. This would provide farm labour stability and would encourage illegal farm workers to identify themselves and participate in the H-2C programme.
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