Introduction of A New Agricultural Guestworker Bill

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced on April 26, 2013 the Agricultural Guestworker “AG” Act (H.R. 1773) a bill to provide American farmers with a workable temporary agricultural guestworker program that will help provide access to a reliable workforce through a new nonimmigrant H–2C work visa program.  The Key Components of H.R. 1773 are as follows:

  1. The program removes barriers and excessive paperwork that farmers face in hiring foreign workers.  If a grower is designated as a registered agricultural employer by USDA and agrees to the terms and obligations of participating in the program, then he can hire guestworkers already admitted to the U.S. without having to file yet another petition for the individual worker.
  2. The bill designates the Department of Agriculture to administer the new guestworker program rather than the Department of Labor.
  3. Growers may require as a condition of employment that guestworkers be subject to binding arbitration and mediation of any grievances in relation to the employment relationship.
  4. The bill eliminates the government-imposed wage rate that is part of the current temporary agricultural guestworker program and replaces it with the prevailing wage rate or the state minimum wage, whichever is greater.
  5. While the cap for the new program is set at 500,000, the Secretary of Agriculture has the authority to raise or lower the cap based on the demands and needs of the market.
  6. Guestworkers will not be eligible for Obamacare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, or other welfare programs.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.