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Year-round H-2A policy moves forward

The U.S. House Appropriation Committee has approved a bipartisan amendment that could provide a temporary year-round H-2A guest worker solution.

The amendment from Congressmen Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) would allow farm employers to use the H-2A visa program to hire foreign workers, regardless of whether those employees are engaged in temporary or seasonal work.

Alan Bjerga with the National Milk Producers Federation tells Brownfield dairy farmers and other yearlong ag producers have not been able to utilize the H-2A program, but this amendment could change that.

“There’s not a dairy season, it’s 365 days a year, 24-7, and so dairies aren’t able to participate in this program,” he explains.

Bjerga says the provision has been included in amendments of past appropriations and it’s unknown if it will make it into a final version, but continuous bipartisan support for year-long H-2A workers is important for the broader policy process.

“Every time you have a chance, be it through an amendment or anything else to show that dairy has this need, and this need is part of a final solution on this issue, that’s an important part of the discussion,” he says.  “As you take broader packages like the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, things like this Homeland Security amendment matter as part of that process.”

Provisions in the House-approved Farm Workforce Modernization Act also allow for year-round usage of the H-2A program which is awaiting Senate approval.

More from Bjerga on activities in Washington

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