Farm Visa Program May be Ready to Go

A long delayed farm visa agreement may be on the verge of passing through the Senate, Washington insiders report, leaving many farmers optimistic about Congress for the first time in months.
For the better part of a year, farmers have been pressuring Congress to enact serious work visa reform. With several states passing tough new immigration laws and with an overall economic downturn, many farmers have reported decreased access to legal farm labor. With an overall anti-immigration climate in many states, some farmers have also reported decreased access to undocumented labor, leaving them in a bind come harvest season. States like Alabama and Georgia, which both passed extreme immigration regulations a few years ago, suffered tens of millions of dollars in agricultural losses as a result of decreased farm labor.
Current work visa laws, farmers say, are not nearly adequate to protect labor sources. The proposed changes, however, would seriously increase farmers’ access to badly needed labor. The proposed bill would create 112,000 agricultural visa slots in its first year, with an additional 112,000 opening every year after than for five years (with a total not to exceed 337,000 in a given three-year period).
With a bipartisan group of Senators ready to present immigration reform next week, these work visa requirements represented that last major hurdle in finally passing comprehensive immigration reform.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer