The h2a visa program provides affordable labor to agricultural communities across the country with the accepted immigrant status of temporary agricultural workers. As of now, the regulations for the program are operating according to 2010 determinant, but the U.S. Department of Labor is preparing to propose reform. The chance in the rule should increase a farmer’s access to legal and reliable agricultural labor, helping reduce the stress and costs associated with abuse and fraud. The new regulations will free up the farmer from burdensome rules and restriction, giving them the freedom to do what they do best.
For many in the industry, such as the National Council of Agricultural Employers and the American Farm Bureau Federation, the change is welcomed. Changes in the visa program would allow farmers who rely heavily on the workers to cope with chronic labor shortages. The program reform would help streamline various aspects, but it would also expand it to include new areas of agricultural work, such as reforestation. Although the past programs have been working the reforms proposed should create a more efficient system.
Additionally, employers will not be mandated to offer employees the highest possible wage droved from state and federal minimum wage rules or the prevailing wage. Instead of having a single rate for all agricultural workers, the Department of Labor will allow for state-specific and occupation-based metrics to be used to determine wages. This is an attempt to reduce the possibility that the current system of compensation is depressing the wages of those workers in higher-paid agricultural positions. It will also update how state agencies can conduct current wage surveys to be more practical and efficient.
The success of the H-2A program is beneficial to both a qualified labor pool and the Ag industry which depends heavily on the temporary employment relief. However, with reform, it can be a more efficient and cost-effective solution for farmers across the nation.