Updated: National Association of State Departments of Agriculture comments.
Public comment will be accepted by the Labor Department on proposed changes to the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program.
The proposed rule:
- Mandates electronic filing of job orders and applications,
- Promotes the use of digital signatures,
- Provides employers with the option of staggering the entry of H-2A workers on a single application.
- Changes standards applicable to rental housing and public accommodations,
- Strengthens surety bond requirements,
- Expands the Labor Department’s authority to use enforcement tools for program rule violations,
- Updates the methodologies used to determine the Adverse Effect Wage Rates and prevailing wages to ensure U.S. workers similarly employed are not adversely impacted,
- Revises the definition of agricultural labor to include employers engaged in reforestation and pine straw activities, and
- Updates procedures governing the certification for job opportunities in animal shearing, custom combining, beekeeping and reforestation.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue praised the rule.
“The proposed rule will increase access to a reliable legal agricultural workforce, easing unnecessary burdens on farmers, increase enforcement against fraud and abuse, all while maintaining protections for America’s workers,” he said in a media statement. “When this rule goes into effect, our farmers will be released from unnecessary and burdensome regulations allowing them to do what they do best.”
American Farm Bureau Federation welcomed the proposal.
“American farmers and ranchers have long faced challenges in meeting their labor needs and asked for modernization of the H-2A program,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “This is a lengthy rule and we intend to evaluate it closely for its potential to assist growers with their labor needs. We are pleased by this development, however, and look forward to submitting comments to the official docket on this proposal.”
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture says the agricultural labor system needs to be fixed.
“The H-2A program is a critically important tool for America’s farmers and ranchers who need timely, legal, and dependable workers to meet their labor needs," said NASDA CEO Dr. Barbara P. Glenn. "The system desperately needs modernization and DOL’s proposed rule is a much-needed step towards bringing this program up to speed with the needs of 21st century farmers.”