Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Committee Holds Hearing to Review Potential Impact of Recent Guest Worker Proposals on Ag Sector
Washington D.C.- The House Committee on Agriculture today held a hearing to review the potential impact of recent temporary guest worker proposals on the agriculture sector, during which they heard from three panels of witnesses representing the major sections of the agriculture industry, as well as witnesses that represent the views of those concerned with U.S. immigration policy. A full witness list can be found at the bottom of this release.
In speaking of the current H-2A temporary agricultural visa process Goodlatte said, “As Chairman of the Committee I have had the opportunity to travel to many regions across the nation and hear first-hand from producers who have to deal with a costly, time-consuming and flawed program. Many producers simply cannot afford the time and cost of complying with the H-2A program. However, in order to find and retain the legal workers these employers depend on for the viability of their operations, they have no alternatives.”
Goodlatte is also a Member of the Judiciary Committee. He went on to remark on the illegal immigration crisis the U.S. currently faces, with most estimates putting the illegal alien population at somewhere between 8 and 11 million.
Late last year, Goodlatte introduced H.R. 3604, the Temporary Agricultural Labor Reform Act, a bi-partisan bill that will reform the H-2A guest worker program by creating a more streamlined and fair process for everyone involved in the agriculture industry. Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm was an original cosponsor of the legislation, along with 32 other Members of Congress.
“I do not believe in rewarding those who have broken our nation’s immigration laws by granting them blanket amnesty,” Goodlatte said. “Instead, my bill would encourage the large population of illegal farm workers to come out of hiding and participate legally in the guest worker program. Potential workers would be required to return to their home countries and apply for the program legally from there. This would both provide a legal, temporary workforce that employers can call on when insufficient American labor can be found, and help ensure that those temporary workers entering the country are not threats to our national security.”
“It is estimated that there are currently between 8-11 million illegal aliens in this country,” Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm said. “U.S. employers have jobs that are difficult to fill with US workers. There are countries where excess workers are facing endless poverty and want an opportunity to work here. I refuse to believe that we can’t design a program that is fair to all, allowing people the dignity of work while at the same time addressing legitimate national security concerns and making our borders more secure.”
Recently, President Bush announced his proposal for reforming the immigration laws in this country. The plan he outlined described a temporary worker program but also included some more far-reaching reforms to the entire U.S. immigration system.
“I was pleased to see that the President’s proposal does not provide a direct path for temporary workers to obtain Legal Permanent Resident or citizenship status, however, I do have some serious concerns about many other aspects of the President’s proposal and will need further explanation as the details are developed,” Goodlatte said.
“The facts are simple,” Goodlatte concluded. “Agriculture needs a reliable guest worker program. Workers need access to stable, legal, temporary employment. It is in our national security interest to create a sensible way for workers to come in on a temporary basis, fill empty jobs, and go back to their home countries.”
• Mr. Stuart Anderson, Executive Director, National Foundation for American Policy, Arlington, Virginia
• Mr. James R. Edwards, Jr., Consultant, Numbers USA, Washington, D.C.
• Mr. Larry Wooten, President, North Carolina Farm Bureau, representing the American Farm Bureau Federation, Raleigh, North Carolina
• Mr. William L. Brim, Vice President, Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Tifton, Georgia
• Mr. Chalmers R. Carr III, Owner/Operator, Titan Peach Farms, Inc., Ridge Spring, South Carolina
• Mr. Tim Baker, Executive Director, U.S. Custom Harvesters, Hutchinson, Kansas
• Mrs. Lorinda Ratkowski, President, Great Lakes Glads, Bronson, Michigan
• Ms. María Echaveste, Advisor, United Farm Workers of America, Washington, D.C.