U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., doubled down this week on the “Labor Certainty for Food Security Act” which will expand guest worker programs for agriculture.
Yoho’s office insisted the bill, which the North Florida Republican brought out last week, “will bring relief to America’s farmers and ranchers who are struggling to find steady, reliable labor.” The bill would create a year-round at-will agricultural guest worker visa program which will be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture; creates a process for employers to bring on temporary agricultural guest workers; requires agricultural employers to bring on American workers first before petitioning for guest workers; fines companies that use unauthorized guest workers; and trace guest workers with a biometric identification card.”
With Yoho not running for a fifth term this year, he continued to push the bill this week.
“‘We will either import our nation’s agriculture labor or we will import our nation’s food.’ This quote was given to me by a produce farmer in my home state of Florida,” Yoho said. “If agriculture labor reform is not resolved soon this statement will become a reality. The United States Congress has failed to create a common-sense dedicated Agriculture Guest Worker Program for over 30 years. The result is a hodgepodge of programs that meet neither the needs of our producers nor that of the migrants that simply want the opportunity to work in America.
“Our producers advertise for domestic workers to work the fields and harvest their crops but when the calls go unanswered the farmer has to rely on foreign workers. Currently, America has only a 10-month seasonal program called the H2A program, but it has many shortcomings and does not fulfill the needs of year-round agriculture such as dairy, timber, poultry and other entities,” Yoho continued. “I along with my colleagues have introduced the ‘Labor Certainty for Food Security Act’ this week. This bill creates a common-sense solution to the labor shortages our farmers face. Our bill provides a legal, reliable, and predictable workforce. Also, it brings certainty for the producer by creating this dedicated workforce for the agriculture sector both in the H2A, 10-month temporary program, and the 3-year year-round program dedicated to agriculture. It removes the jurisdiction of agriculture labor from the Department of Labor to the USDA. It removes the arbitrary Department of Labor wage rates known as AEWR (Adverse Effective Wage Rate) and replaces it with a commonsense rate. It allows workers to apply prior to entering the United States so they do not have to enter illegally into our country.
“This program allows for people that have entered the country illegally to enter these programs after paying a fine. It does not provide a pathway to citizenship, yet it does not prevent one from applying for citizenship once they become enrolled into the program,” Yoho added. “The bipartisan Labor Certainty for Food Security Act, is the right answer to a complex problem. A problem that is overdue for a solution and should not be overlooked any longer. As our efforts gain momentum, it is important to remember that this is not a partisan issue. When Republicans and Democrats come together to provide our Ag producers with the workforce they need, everyone benefits.”
U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., who also sits on the Agriculture Committee, is one of the bill’s 10 cosponsors.
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary; Education and Labor; Ways and Means; and the Energy and Commerce Committees. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. Senate.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.