Leaders of the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday named a 14-member working group, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, that is supposed to find solutions for the labor challenges facing farmers.

The working group, whose members largely represent districts where workforce challenges are particularly acute, is charged with first writing an interim report that will detail the shortcomings of the H-2A visa program, and then producing a final report with recommendations.

Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and Don Davis, D-N.C., will co-chair the group. 

The other Republican members are Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, Monica De La Cruz of Texas, Doug LaMalfa of California, Nick Langworthy of New York, David Rouzer of North Carolina and Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin. 

The other Democrats in the working group are Yadira Caraveo of Colorado, Salud Carbajal and Jim Costa of California, Jasmine Crockett of Texas, Darren Soto of Florida and Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico.

Crawford told Agri-Pulse the group will start its work next month after the July 4 congressional recess and will have six months to deliver his recommendations. 

In a joint statement, committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., and ranking member David Scott, D-Ga., said the committee “has heard loud and clear from producers across the nation that one of the biggest challenges confronting the agriculture industry is a lack of reliable labor. 

It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.

“Though not directly in our committee’s jurisdiction we have a responsibility to be a voice in Congress on the issues and policies impacting farmers and ranchers. This is a complex problem that deserves the focused attention of the members who hear from producers every day rather than the partisan grandstanding that has plagued these efforts in the past.”

According to a committee release, the final report will “provide a comprehensive suite of potential solutions that can inform and be utilized in subsequent legislative efforts.”

Thompson has acknowledged that the committee lacks the jurisdiction to advance legislation that would modify the H-2A program. Immigration policy is under the purview of the Judiciary Committee. However, Crawford noted that the group will have members of Judiciary as well as Ways and Means, which handles trade and tariff policy.

Crawford said the goal is to produce recommendations for legislation that can pass the House. 

"Consensus is going to be difficult, and that's why I think we have to start with a real broad scope on what the problems are, and how they affect each individual geography, and then what are the commonalities that can be fixed," he said. 

Farm groups’ best chance in recent years of enacting farm labor reform ended in December when the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, passed twice by a Democratic-controlled House, died in the Senate at the end of the last Congress.

Fruit and vegetable producers, meanwhile, are pushing the House and Senate Agriculture committees to include funding in the next farm bill for automation-related research and cost-share assistance.

For more news, go to Agri-Pulse.com.