here's what's being done (and should be done) to improve the guest worker program for workers and employers
There are many complaints about the H2A or farm guest worker program. Union activists want to add to the costs, regulations and bureaucratic burdens to reduce, limit or eliminate use of the program believing that the severe shortage of farm workers creates greater opportunities for unions. Farmers, on the other hand, want and need to make more use of the guest worker program because of the severe and increasing shortage of workers. Losing market share every year to foreign growers, farmers are paying twenty to thirty times more than their foreign competitors and face far more farm, food safety, and worker protection laws and regulations. They want to see the high cost of hiring these legal foreign workers reduced and the unnecessarily burdensome red tape reduced.
Fresh strawberries from Western Washington farm fields like this one are almost a thing of the past. Strawberry harvest proved exceptionally hard to mechanize. The high cost of labor combined with numerous other environment, worker safety, and food safety regulations have made it essentially impossible for Washington farmers to compete against the rapidly growing competition from foreign farmers. The New York Times recently reported that we now import over 53% of our fruit from foreign producers. The loss of jobs to farm workers who depend on them is one major issue. The other is the increased pesticide levels and health risks related to imported foods.
Four Cabinet-Level Departments Announce Plan to Streamline the Guest Worker Program
May 25, 2018
Capital Press carried the story of a plan by the Trump administration to improve the H2A guest worker program. Four cabinet-level departments issued a joint press release stating:
The plan is to “substantially reduce” the program’s complexity while giving farmers incentives to use the E-verify system — electronic verification of employment eligibility — to ensure workers are authorized to work in the U.S., the departments of Labor, Agriculture, State and Homeland Security said in a joint news release on May 24.
The USDA press statement included:
The Trump Administration is committed to modernizing the H-2A visa program rules in a way that is responsive to stakeholder concerns and that deepens our confidence in the program as a source of legal and verified labor for agriculture – while also reinforcing the program’s strong employment and wage protections for the American workforce. In addition, by improving the H-2A visa program and substantially reducing its complexity, the Administration also plans to incentivize farmers’ use of the E-Verify program to ensure their workforce is authorized to work in the United States.