Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) released the following statement after the House Committee on Appropriations approved the Fiscal Year 2018 Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The legislation provides for critical programs such as border and immigration enforcement, customs activities, protection against cyberterrorism, aviation security, natural disaster response, border security, and temporary guestworkers. Rep. Newhouse’s bipartisan amendment applies the H-2A program to all of agriculture:
“Today, large segments of American agriculture face a critical lack of workers, a problem made worse by the fact that the H-2A program is not working for all of agriculture,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Modern agriculture techniques that have become less ‘seasonal’ demand an update to this program because many segments of the agriculture industry are either no longer seasonal or have multiple harvests, one after the other. H-2A must be made more workable for farmers, and my amendment clarifies that all of agriculture may use H-2A so it operates effectively as our nation’s Ag guest worker program. My amendment does not change the time limits a worker employed through the H-2A program can stay in the U.S., and it would not change the requirements on farmers to show they are first hiring domestic workers. This amendment is a small starting point of relief we can provide our farmers who need access to workers.”
Newhouse’s amendment clarifies that for FY2018, all of agriculture may use the H-2A program. Under the amendment, H-2A would still remain a temporary program. Additionally, the amendment would not change the time limits a worker employed through the H-2A program can stay in the U.S., and it would maintain the requirement that farmers show they are advertising open positions and are trying to hire domestic workers first. The amendment would simply ensure that all of agriculture is able to utilize the program. The agriculture industry’s labor situation has been a concern for many years, and currently large segments of American agriculture face a critical shortage of workers. This shortfall is exacerbated when H-2A is unavailable for the dairy industry or problematic for agriculture operations with multiple crops and harvests.