|For Immediate Release
September 7, 2011
Contact: Jessica Baker, 202-225-3951
Chairman Smith Introduces American Specialty Agriculture Act
Washington, DC – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced the American Specialty Agriculture Act (H.R. 2847), a bill to eliminate the problems plaguing the current H-2A temporary agricultural work visa program and establish a new H-2C program that will help American growers hire a legal workforce.
Chairman Smith: “American growers need to hire hundreds of thousands of seasonal agricultural workers each year to tend and harvest their crops. But the current temporary agricultural work visa program is so plagued with problems that growers avoid using it altogether. If we are really going to help American growers in the long-term, we need to provide them a workable guestworker program that will help them hire a legal workforce.
“That’s why my bill replaces this ineffective program with a more effective system. The new temporary agricultural work visa program under my bill is responsive to the needs of American growers while maintaining strong safeguards to protect citizens and legal workers. It also makes necessary reforms to help ensure American growers hire a legal workforce without a fraud-ridden mass amnesty for illegal immigrant farmworkers.
“Our agricultural guestworker program needs to be fair to everyone it impacts—including growers, American farmworkers, guestworkers, and consumers. It must provide growers who want to do the right thing with a reliable source of legal labor. It must protect the livelihoods of American workers and the rights of guestworkers. And it must keep in mind the pocketbooks of American families. The American Specialty Agriculture Act accomplishes these goals and will help ensure growers keep growing our crops and our economy.”
The Immigration Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing on H.R. 2847 on Thursday, September 8, at 1:30 pm.
Below is a summary of the new H-2C temporary agricultural work visa program as contained in H.R. 2847.
Administered by USDA: The bill relies on the Department of Agriculture to administer the H-2C program rather than the Department of Labor.
Attestation-Based: H.R. 2847 makes the H-2C program attestation-based to reduce red-tape for growers while maintaining strong protections for American workers.
Workable Housing Requirement: To reduce the fiscal burdens on growers, the bill provides a more flexible framework to growers by allowing them to provide either housing or a housing voucher payable to a landlord.
Fair Transportation Reimbursement Policy: The legislation ensures that growers only have to reimburse an H-2C worker for the transportation costs from the worker’s home to the place of employment if the worker completes 50% of the work contract period.
Elimination of the “50%” Rule: The new H-2C program does not contain the current “50%” rule that requires growers to provide employment to U.S. workers who apply until 50% of the worker’s work contract period is elapsed.
Reformed Employment Guarantee: The bill requires that a grower guarantee to offer H-2C workers work for a more reasonable half of the workdays of the period the work contract is in effect.
Available to Dairies: Unlike the H-2A program, the new H-2C program does not require the qualifying work to be of a temporary or seasonal nature. This will allow dairies and other non-seasonal agricultural employers to participate.
Discourages Frivolous Litigation: The bill addresses abusive and frivolous litigation by allowing growers to include binding arbitration and mediation in contracts with H-2C workers. It also prevents the federally-funded Legal Services Corporation from suing a grower on behalf of an H-2C worker unless mediation has been attempted first.
Makes Sure Workers Return Home: The bill requires H-2C workers to return home after 10 months of work.
Numerical Cap: The new H-2C program allows up to half a million foreign workers a year to receive H-2C visas.
Bill Text PDF: American Specialty Agriculture Act (H.R. 2847)