Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY-27) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) have introduced the Family Farm Relief Act of 2017, legislation to move the H-2A agricultural visa program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture to better meet the unique labor needs of farmers and agricultural businesses.
"The last thing our farmers need is for the federal government to make it harder for them to make ends meet," Collins said. "Access to a willing and available labor force is absolutely critical for Western New York's agriculture community, particularly our dairy farmers. I am proud to join my colleague Congresswoman Stefanik in introducing this commonsense legislation to streamline and improve the H-2A visa program."
"Agriculture is the backbone of our North Country economy and I am pleased to introduce this important bill to address the labor shortages facing our farmers," Stefanik said. "When I travel the district speaking with our farmers, I often hear about how unnecessary delays in worker visas lead to difficulty meeting production goals. This commonsense legislation simply puts the H-2A agricultural visa program in the hands of those who best understand the specific needs of our farms."
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, "Immigration reform that allows for both seasonal and year-round farm labor has been a longtime priority for New York Farm Bureau. For too long, the federal H2A guest visa program has been cumbersome, prone to delays and too rigid to fit the needs of both farmers and their employees. We thank Congresswoman Stefanik for taking the lead on the The Family Farm Relief Act that will provide real reform and address a critical issue in New York's diverse agricultural community."
The Family Farm Relief Act of 2017 takes practical measures such as allowing visa applicants to fill out H-2A applications on paper or online, requiring a user-friendly online system, and ending burdensome requirements on advertising and prevailing practice surveys.
Collins' camp said the current H-2A visa program is unworkable, especially for the dairy farms across this nation. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. This has caused difficulties for dairy farms that need employees year-round. This legislation addresses this oversight, by creating an H-2A category for these workers.
Additionally, the legislation also allows farm cooperatives and other agricultural associations to apply for workers for their members, makes the program more workable for dairy and other livestock operations, and requires reporting to Congress if delays occur in the H-2A visa application process.
Visit https://stefanik.house.gov/sites/stefanik.house.gov/files/STEFNY_047_xml.pdf for the bill text.