Greg Steube Pushes U.S. Citrus Protection Act, Bill Moving H-2A Visas to USDA

At a meeting with the Florida Farm Bureau last week, U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., showcased two proposals focusing on agriculture.

Steube met with Florida Farm Bureau members from DeSoto, Highlands, Hardee, Glades, Okeechobee, Lee and Sarasota Counties and was awarded the “Friend of Farm Bureau Award.”

“Ensuring that American farmers have an advantage over foreign competition and are not burdened by counterproductive federal regulations is vital for Florida’s agricultural industry,” Steube said at the end of last week. “My team and I will continue to advocate for Florida’s farmers and ranchers as they navigate these challenges moving forward.”

Steube used the occasion to highlight two proposals he introduced at the start of the year.

Back in June 2020, Steube brought out the “U.S. Citrus Protection Act,” which, his office noted, “would prohibit the importation of commercially produced fresh citrus fruit from China.”

When he brought out the proposal, Steube said he was championing the proposal to protect citrus growers in Florida and other states while blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic.

“As farmers and ranchers in Florida and across the country are struggling to cope with the decreased demand for their products as a result of the economic shutdowns, more than ever we need to put America first and cannot give foreign entities a competitive advantage,” Steube said. “Communist China is responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic damages that have impacted our nation’s farmers, and now they are trying to profit off of our hardship.”

“Florida has over 47,000 commercial farms and ranches and is ranked first in the U.S. in value of production of oranges and grapefruits with oranges’ annual production value over $1.07 billion,” the congressman’s office noted. “Florida’s 17th District produces more citrus than any other congressional district in the United States.”

Steube brought the bill back in January with U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., signing on in February as the only co-sponsor. The bill was sent to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

Also in January, Steube brought back his proposal to move the H-2A visa program for temporary agriculture jobs from the U.S. Labor Department to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

At the start of last year, Steube first introduced the “Moving H-2A to United States Department of Agriculture Act.”

According to the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the “H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs.”

In February 2020, Steube weighed in on why he had introduced the bill.

“Farmers across Florida rely on the H-2A visa program each year for temporary agricultural labor,” said Steube. “Given that the purpose of the H-2A program is to address agricultural labor needs, it seems only logical that we would rely on the Department of Agriculture to review and grant these visas.”

“This bill would relocate the H-2A visa program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture, including all personnel, funding, and other materials necessary for the administration of the program. The bill also transfers the responsibility for issuing the visa from the Attorney General to the Secretary of Homeland Security,” the congressman’s office noted.

Steube insisted the USDA was the right place to oversee these visas.

“The USDA is the expert when it comes to agriculture, and I for one think it is the best department to determine the needs of the agricultural community when it comes to labor,” said Steube. “It is my hope that with the transfer of this program, farmers in Florida and across America will see expedited review times and an overall improvement in the administration of the program. It’s time we trust the experts to manage this critical program and ensure the needs of our farmers are being met efficiently and effectively.”

This bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. So far, Steube has not reeled in any co-sponsors and there is no companion measure over in the Senate.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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