Members of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) sent a letter to House and Senate leadership calling for support of immigration legislation that addresses agriculture’s unique labor needs.

“American agriculture cannot continue as a bright spot in our economy without a legal, stable workforce,” the groups state in the letter. “Reforms to the immigration system can ensure that our farmers and ranchers have access to the workers they need, both in the short- and long-term.  These reforms require a legislative solution, such as the AWC proposal, that moves beyond past initiatives which are no longer viable to meet agriculture's needs.”

They noted that action is needed because producers have limited options when it comes to finding a skilled and dependable workforce. For one, many of these jobs—though they offer wages competitive with similar, off farm jobs—simply do not appeal to many Americans because of their seasonality and other factors.

Further, the groups state, the only current option available to farmers and ranchers to legally find the employees they need is the H-2A program, which is broken beyond repair.

“The H-2A program’s basic framework is overly restrictive and difficult for an employer to maneuver; however, in recent years it has become even more unworkable and costly to use,” the letter said. “A national survey conducted by the National Council of Agricultural Employers of H-2A employers under the current rules showed that administrative delays have caused an economic loss of nearly $320 million for farms.”

The letter was delivered as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration & Border Security held a hearing Tuesday focused on agriculture’s labor needs, the deficiencies of the H-2A visa program, and the need for a new agricultural guest worker program. Among the witnesses at the hearing is Bob Stallman, president of the AFBF. AWC will submit a statement for the record to the subcommittee outlining the coalition’s proposal.