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Amendment offers dairy producers year-round H-2A access

House advances amendment to allow H-2A visa program to fill year-round agricultural worker needs.

As part of the passage of the House Homeland Security Appropriations bill, members approved the Cuellar-Newhouse amendment, which would allow farm employers to use the H-2A visa program to hire foreign workers, regardless of whether those employees are engaged in temporary or seasonal work.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and members of its Immigration Task Force have worked on this proposal, which is similar to language offered in the past by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) and supported by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas), so that dairy farmers can better use the H-2A visa program to fill needs for year-round workers.

Previously, H-2A was not available for the dairy sector’s year-round labor needs. Without a tool to provide the nation’s dairy farmers with a reliable workforce, farms struggle to grow or sustain their businesses with confidence. This amendment will provide a tool to answer the pivotal question, “Who will milk the cows?”

“Dairy owners are constantly seeing their ‘help wanted’ ads go unanswered,” American Dairy Coalition chief executive officer Laurie Fischer said. “Our domestic workforce is not filling agricultural jobs that are necessary to keep it running. We need tools to provide an avenue for farmers to access legal workers willing to fill these year-round jobs. In addition, this program provides the critical time employers need to ensure their workers are trained to provide the best standard of animal care attainable.”

NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern noted that dairy farmers have largely have not been able to use H-2A visas because the current program restricts them to only temporary and seasonal labor needs of agricultural employers. “The current H-2A program simply isn’t an option for a commodity that ‘harvests’ its product multiple times a day, every day,” Mulhern explained.

“Creating an additional legal pathway for workers to connect with farm employers deserves bipartisan support, and the history of this legislation shows such support is readily available. It is critical that the government creates a system that provides secure, legal employment. We thank lawmakers for their efforts toward achieving this goal,” Mulhern said.

TAGS: Policy
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