This week, the House Judiciary Committee held a two-day mark-up of Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s “The AG Act” (H.R. 4092). Yesterday, the Committee passed the legislation by a vote of 17-16. Two Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill, and seven members (four Republicans and three Democrats) were absent for the final vote.
The proposed legislation would replace the current H-2A visa program with a new H-2C visa program and contains several key agriculture workforce components, including a handful of positive ones. Unfortunately, H.R. 4092 also contains several unworkable components that need to be addressed for it to have our full support.
Following the vote, Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif issued a media statement and also sent an email to members regarding the bill. Though WG supported its passage from the committee as a first step to addressing our critical labor needs, both the media statement and the email to members reiterated our strong opposition to the negative components of the bill that include:
- lowering the cap on visas;
- eliminating the work authorization period for the current workforce;
- allowing Ag to access the green card system in the future; and
- a ‘touchback’ provision for workers before they are eligible for the H-2C program.
Additionally, the Committee adopted an amendment that would require mandatory E-Verify legislation also be signed into law before the AG Act could be enacted, which makes it even more critical that we get the ag solution right.
Western Growers has also clearly expressed to Chairman Goodlatte, House Leadership and House members our concerns about the legislation and will continue to work with them to seek the necessary changes to make this bill a workable solution for our members.
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