Senate Democrats Unveil New Ag Labor Plan

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) today introduced legislation to shield farmworkers from deportation and put them on a path to earned legal status and eventual citizenship.


Under the Agricultural Worker Program Act, farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years may earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three or five years, depending on the total hours worked in agriculture, would be eligible to adjust to a green card or legal permanent residency.

“Everywhere I travel in California, I hear from farmers, growers, and producers from all industries—wine, citrus, fruit and tree nuts, dairy — that there aren’t enough workers,” said Feinstein. “Farm labor is performed almost exclusively by undocumented immigrants — a fact that should surprise no one. By protecting farmworkers from deportation, our bill achieves two goals — ensuring that hardworking immigrants don’t live in fear and California’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to thrive.”

The Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017 was hailed by the President and CEO of one of the largest specialty crop associations in the nation, Tom Nassif of Western Growers. 

“With the introduction of immigration legislation, the Senate elevates an issue often overlooked in the immigration reform debate: Retention of the existing agricultural workforce,” Nassif said. “To reform our broken immigration system, Congress must pass bipartisan solutions that acknowledge the contributions and value of current farmworkers while also creating a workable program to enable the future flow of labor to American farms. One without the other will not work.”

The time for action is now, Nassif emphasized.

“We are hopeful that those members of the legislature that are working on agricultural immigration legislation accelerate the process because time is definitely of the essence and our labor situation has reached a critical stage,” he said.

According to a press release from Feinstein, the Agricultural Worker Program Act is supported by about 50 labor and other organizations across the country.

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Avatar for Southern Tier Farmer Southern Tier Farmer says:

And it can be filed in the trash. Why can’t the Dems be honest and say they don’t want any border rules and anyone and everyone can come in whenever they wish?

Avatar for Francis Francis says:

All the Dems want is more people on welfare if they really want people to work they would cut off welfare if they don’t work about 125 days or more on the ranch. Some farm’s have house trailers for them to live in. And more their would be less homeless people also.

Avatar for Mark G Vanden Plas Mark G Vanden Plas says:

Does the plan include employer provided health insurance?

Avatar for Farmer Farmer says:

I think it is better to bring the labor as needed and send them back their country of origin. Over the years I have observed once a permanent status is awarded these people are established in communities and are not willing to go a distance to work. A labor contractors often complain 30 miles from away people are receiving food stamps but are unwilling to go to work as far as 30 miles away. Some of the workers also want to go back to their country of origin to their families and enjoy the fruit of their labor.

Avatar for John Herlihy John Herlihy says:

Well it is about time. We have had this problem since Reagan was president and nothing has been done. Hopefully this will get passed.

Avatar for Doug Doug says:

Reagan’s presidency saw the signing of the amnesty legislation, which was passed by overwhelming democrat support. The dems insisted that if the amnesty law was passed, and citizenship granted to all the illegals currently living in the US, that funding for border security would be approved so that the flow of illegal immigrants would be stopped and that the US would not have to address the issue again. This is what you get for electing democrats.

Avatar for Tony Lehouillier Tony Lehouillier says:

Something needs to be done about illegal aliens
We use the h2a program
Capitalism needs to be fair
We can’t compete against 5.00 labor
We have to pay 12.37
How can anyone compete if your not ripping off the system
Not paying taxes

Avatar for Burr Mosby Burr Mosby says:

Puget Sound speciality veg grower, we farm 350 acres of hand harvested and hand weeded crops it’s about time somebody is kicking the tire of this problem, why is this such a hard topic for all our Politicians to realize that All Farms Struggle with Labor, less tha .02% of the population feed the other .98% and last time I looked outside of our office there was no line up of Americans that want to work on a Farm!!

Avatar for Doug Doug says:

What do you think would happen if states like yours made able-bodied adults apply for ag jobs before they were given unemployment compensation, EBT cards and welfare?

Avatar for Burr Burr says:

Doug I like your idea, don’t forget drug testing also for those seeking assistance.I just wish foriegn workers could get a 3-11 month work visa do the work here and return home and do it again the next year if they didn’t cause any issues here domestically. also there needs to be a provision for citizens that have relations back in there home country to request them for a work visa and to be able to have them live with them instead of worker housing then when it’s time to go back they go home.

Avatar for Nate Nate says:

You can make them apply but, if they aren’t already doing it most likely they don’t want to and you’re wasting money.

Avatar for scott watt scott watt says:

“Never let a crisis go to waste”, Rahm Emanuel

Avatar for Andy daniels Andy daniels says:

I use the H2 a program, and my adverse affect wage rate is $13.79, if they get their workers for less than that there’s going to be hell to pay! They can also use the age to a program and pay what I have to pay it’s unfair that I have to pay more

Avatar for Andy daniels Andy daniels says:

Canada has a great worker program, can’t we do the same, can’t we remodel ours like Canada’s, all providences pay the same amount they want to go home after they make their money!

Avatar for Russell Costanza Russell Costanza says:

This program may be supported by 50 labor and other organizations. How many intensive labor farmers will support this fiix? As a former advisor to one of the above named Senators, I see one troubling issue with this bill,the pathway to citizenship. This approach has been attempted several times since the Spical Ag worker section of ICRA 86 sunset. Reprise the Special Ag Workers section of the Immigration law of 86. Then put the special, guest farm workers under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. Problem 90% fixed.
Citizenship pathway, a separate issue, is always possible with adjustments to the existing system.

Avatar for Veggieking Veggieking says:

Most of these people just want to make some money and go back to their country of origin. Can’t we just put together a decent guest worker program?

Avatar for Jay Bunker Jay Bunker says:

This has been my experience working alongside people from other countries. By and large they are very homesick and only want to go home after the job is done.

Avatar for Bob espinola Bob espinola says:

Bob Veg. Grower
I see (2) separate issues. A work force that is needed called Blue Card and a permanent resident Green Card. At this time we need to address the need for labor in Ag. These people need to be documented when entering United States to work in ag. The employee should have the ability to return home at any time. Employers would be required to keep on records on the employment of Blue Card employee.
Not having the answer to the permanent status; but first , put the families that have been here for years grand parents, parents, children on the road to citizenship.

Avatar for michael Rottkamp michael Rottkamp says:

Try to keep agriculture workers from leaving the farm and going on construction or landscaping jobs would be a challenge

Avatar for Swearingen Marko Swearingen Marko says:

UFB yet another destructive act by those who live in gated community needing plantation style Labor to support their own living standards..b will they keep new imports from taking rentals? Taking other lucrative jobs in trucking construction Tech support industry. Just another way to break middle class into 3rd world nation