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Collins says federal program for farmworkers needs improvement

Posted 26 September 2017 at 12:52 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Workers harvest cabbage on Route 98 in Gaines last month.

Congressman wants program streamlined, expanded to include dairy farms

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Chris Collins (R-Clarence) met with United States Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta today to discuss expanding the H-2A Agricultural Visa program. This program allows agriculture employers to hire workers on a temporary basis to fill seasonal jobs.

Under the current program, America’s agricultural employers that require year-round workers are met with challenges as it relates to finding a legal, experienced workforce. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. Both crop and livestock farmers depend on affordable labor, yet an oversight in the H-2A program has put the latter at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining workers.

“I’ve talked with hard-working farmers across Western New York who are struggling because they are unable to retain year-round workers,” said Collins. “Our dairy farmers especially are burdened with an H-2A program that does not allow them to hire the individuals they need to milk cows, feed livestock, and maintain the herd.”

The agriculture industry is vital to the Western New York economy. Collins’ Congressional District includes almost 5,000 farms which produce more than $1 billion of products sold each year.

Collins said one area of the H-2A program that needs improvement includes changing eligibility to include year-round agricultural operations such as dairy, nursery, and fresh cut operations. The meeting with Secretary Acosta was based on the fact that the Department of Labor (USDOL) has the ability to make rule changes that would immediately amend program guidelines.

“I urged Secretary Acosta to take action on this issue now. Western New York’s and America’s farmers can’t continue to be burdened by these ineffective rules and regulations while waiting for Congress to act,” Collins added.

Collins was joined by Members of Congress from across the United States who also discussed streamlining the H-2A application process. Recommendations presented would reduce redundancies and improve operating efficiencies.

“I am committed to working with President Trump, Secretary Acosta and my colleagues in Congress to make the necessary reforms that are good for our agriculture industry, and in turn, good for our economy.”

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