Perdue says expect improvements to H-2A


U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue expects some type of improvements to the H-2A visa program with current immigration reform efforts stalled.

“We’re hopeful we can get a regulatory fix over H-2A.  While it’s not the ideal, we hope until we can get a legislative fix that will suffice.”

While in Michigan during his “Back to Our Roots” RV tour, Perdue said USDA is in serious negotiations with the Departments of State, Labor, and Homeland Security over a modernized, revised, and improved H-2A program for seasonal workers.  “To make the H-2A program much more workable, much more amenable to producers, decreasing the onerous problems they had with all the reporting and advertising and the filing that made it somewhat unworkable.”

He says while it doesn’t solve year-round labor shortages in agriculture, it does provide a source of legal season farm labor.

Perdue says the administration wants to see a legal farm worker program in immigration legislation that moves through Congress.

AUDIO: Secretary Perdue’s comments at Clemens Food Group luncheon in Coldwater, Michigan

  • The problem is with the definition of a “temporary worker.” The US attorney general in 1997 defined this word definition:

    “In determining what the word “temporary” means, we have relied on a
    number of sources: the language of the statute, the legislative history, the
    dictionary meaning of the word, the administrative interpretation of similar
    language, and the relevant case law. Based on all of these factors, we believe
    that the word “temporary” in 8 U.S.C. °◊ 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a) refers to any job
    in agriculture where the employer needs a worker for a limited period of time,
    generally of less than one year’s duration.”

    The Department of Labor has interpreted the word “temporary” as the need must be temporary, which is a one time occurrence. A simple change of policy directly at the U.S. Labor Department can help livestock, poultry, dairy and egg producers who are most in need of legal seasonal farm workers.

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