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DAIRY Act expands H-2A for year-round use

Rep. Duffy’s bill modifies visa programs to allow dairy workers to hold a visa for 18 months.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.) introduced the Defending the Agricultural Industry’s Requirements Year-round Act of 2017 (DAIRY Act), which expands the H-2A worker program to benefit the nation’s dairy farmers who have struggled to maintain a stable, legal workforce.

Currently, agricultural guest-worker programs do not work well for dairy because the industry is not seasonal. This bill modifies the existing visa program to allow dairy workers to hold a visa for 18 months, giving farmers certainty about the stability of their workforce.

“I’m proud to stand by Wisconsin dairy farmers to modernize our guest-worker program, because our farmers provide their products to market year-round, not just for a season. Dairy farmers and dairy workers alike deserve more certainty in this labor program, and my bill does just that,” Duffy said in a statement.

The American Dairy Coalition (ADC) “highly supports” the efforts Duffy is making to help the dairy industry utilize the H-2A visa program. Previously, the dairy industry was excluded due to its 365-days-per-year need for labor. Dairy farmers have been waiting for a provision to utilize the H2-A visa category to legally employ immigrant workers to fill important roles that domestic workers continually pass up. The H2-A visa is a vital tool to provide year-round labor for dairy operations.

ADC has worked diligently on several immigration reform bills, with each representing various tools dairy farmers can utilize to access the labor so desperately needed to ensure that they can successfully maintain their businesses. ADC said it “will work hard with Rep. Duffy to move this bill over the finish line.”

Immigration solutions for the dairy industry remain a top concern for many in Congress. During the nomination hearing for Sonny Perdue, secretary of agriculture nominee, a number of senators raised the issue of immigration, primarily in the context of dairy farmers’ need for farm workers. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) voiced concern with President Donald Trump’s recent immigration actions and urged Perdue to advocate for an Administration policy that supports a consistent flow of labor, particularly for dairy farms.

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