Congressman Bill Owens recently spoke out in favor of a guest-worker program for agricultural workers. Citing difficulties in finding agricultural labor, Owens suggested that as a uniquely agricultural problem, a new guest-worker program should be passed as a part of an agricultural jobs bill rather than as an attempt to reform American immigration policies.
Congressman Dennis Cardoza, who appeared alongside Owens at a farming forum, agreed that a guest-program was necessary for agricultural development. Cardoza’s Congressional District, in California’s Central Valley, has 20% unemployment and is unable to acquire sufficient farm labor.
In addition to the difficulty in finding new farm labor, many famers complained that it was difficult to retain current farm employees. The current H-2A visa program, which allows foreign nationals to temporarily work within the United States, has been criticized for being heavily bureaucratized. â€œIf you don’t dot all the ‘I’s and cross all the ‘T’s, they bump you back to square one,” said one New York farmer.
Cardoza and Owens are hoping to have a new farm bill, with the guest-worker provision, passed by December 2011. â€œWe’re starting early, and we’re really going to make sure we have the input of areas like this,” Cardoza said, referring to farm roundtables and forums.
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