U.S. farmers and ranchers discussed the current state of regulations governing the farm labor market and efforts to navigate it, at a workshop during AFBF’s 100th Annual Convention. The H-2A visa program has experienced massive growth over the past decade, with the number of visas being issued to temporary workers rising 500 percent. Still, demand is surpassing the supply, and navigating the system is a challenge.

Leon Sequeira, a private attorney with LRS Law, discussed how efforts to overhaul the current system received a major blow when Congress failed to pass H.R.4092 (Agricultural Guestworker Act or the AG Act) in 2018. The bill addressed many of the concerns farmers have with the current system. It would have implemented multi-year visas, a broader definition of what industries are eligible and streamlined the application process. Unfortunately, the bill got caught up in the unresolved battle to fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and was never brought to the floor as a standalone bill.

Other opportunities to ease the burden that current laws place on farmers have also fallen short. A Department of Labor proposal to “streamline” the system was due in December 2018 but has not materialized. The other major change in 2018 was an Agriculture Department proposal to change the advertisement requirement for the program from newspapers to the internet.