Feb 23, 2018
Guest worker legislation opposed by Western Growers

The Western Growers Board of Directors recently voted to oppose House Resolution 4760, which the group called “flawed” in its attempt to reform agricultural labor.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, the resolution would create a new guest worker program, H-2C, for the agriculture industry to employ foreign workers.

But Western Growers said in a news release the legislation “would worsen the worker shortage crisis for farmers throughout the country.”

“We will remain engaged with any and all legislators who seek workable solutions to our labor crisis, but given the harm that would come to our growers from provisions of H.R. 4760, we must oppose the bill,” said Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif.

The fresh produce industry employs the largest share of agriculture workers in America, according to the release. Western Growers members supply more than half the fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, grown both conventionally and organically, in the United States. Members are based in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, and have farming and other operations in 28 states.

Western growers highlighted two key concerns with the Goodlatte bill, saying that it would force long-time existing workers in agriculture to return to their countries of origin in order to apply for a new H-2C visa, or stay in the shadows.

“Western Growers directors believe few of their employees would leave spouses and children behind in the U.S., many subject to deportation, on the questionable assumption that the federal government will efficiently readmit them as temporary seasonal guest workers,” according to the organization. “Additionally, those who do raise their hands to return to a country they no longer know may face difficulty with re-entry after so many years.”

The growers’ group also took issue with what it called an “unworkable cap on new visas” – effectively 410,000 the first year and 820,000 the second year for fresh produce and other sectors – which it said would be insufficient for the estimated demand.

“Studies indicate that there are currently two million undocumented farm workers in the U.S., with 400,000 to 500,000 in the west alone,” according to the growers’ statement.

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