Sen. Chambliss introduces non-amnesty temporary farm worker program

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Oct. 1 - Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) introduced legislation Thursday to create a non-amnesty option for temporary agriculture workers. His “Helping Agriculture Receive Verifiable Employees Securely & Temporarily” or HARVEST Act of 2010 would reform and streamline the H-2A temporary worker program to meet the need for farm workers and discourage the practice of hiring undocumented workers.

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Chambliss said “The continued safety of agricultural goods produced in the United States is an issue of national security. Currently, an estimated 50 to 70 percent of our agricultural workforce is undocumented. It is critical to know who is handling our nation's food supply, and this legislation provides the only non-amnesty option for temporary workers in the United States.”

The current H-2A guest worker program has proven cumbersome and difficult to use for many farmers and ranchers trying to employ a legal temporary workforce. It also does not accommodate the needs of year-round agricultural employers. The HARVEST Act proposes changes to:

  • “Provide a mechanism for addressing the presence of undocumented workers on our nation's farms without creating a work stoppage and without providing a new path to citizenship;”
  • “Ensure that stringent protections for U.S. workers are in place;”
  • “Require the U.S. Department of Labor to increase the number of random audits and investigations of H-2A employers to ensure compliance with U.S. workplace laws and regulations;”
  • “Ensure that foreign workers' ties to their home countries remain strong by mandating limits to a foreign worker's continuous stay in the U.S. without returning to his/her home country;”
  • “Require H-2A employers to verify the work eligibility of all agricultural workers they hire; and”
  • “Ensure that the H-2A program can work for agricultural employers with year-round operations.”

“This bill focuses on the needs of America's farmers and ranchers rather than focusing on providing citizenship to illegal farm workers and their families. I am hopeful that my colleagues in the Senate will join me in passing this legislation to ensure that the United States continues to produce the best and safest food and fiber in the world,” Chambliss said, hoping for swift consideration after the Senate resumes work on Nov. 15 following the mid-term elections.

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