Public Comments

Statement on H.R. 4092 – “Agricultural Guestworker Act”

The “Agricultural Guestworker Act” (Ag Act) would greatly expand the liberty of Americans to contract with foreign workers through a new temporary work visa program. Foreign agricultural workers allow farms to expand production, lower prices, and raise incomes for most workers in the United States. Government intervention in the labor market inhibits the ability of farmers to plan the planting and harvesting of crops appropriately, leading to a reduction in production at the start of the season or crops rotting at the end. This government-created uncertainty also makes it more difficult for U.S. companies that rely on U.S. agricultural products to expand. At the same time, unnecessary regulations on agricultural guest workers limit their availability, incentivizing illegal immigration.

Excessive regulatory costs and arbitrary limitations on the occupations that H-2A workers may perform limit the use of H-2A temporary worker program. The Ag Act would help to fix these problems and end the regulatory uncertainty. It would provide for a minimum of 500,000 H-2C work visas for farms and related employers as well as streamline regulations for hiring them. The Ag Act also allows some unauthorized immigrants to participate in the program if they qualify, which would reduce some of the uncertainty associated with illegal employment. The committee could improve the legislation by granting current unauthorized farm workers permanent residency and by allowing future guest workers more time to seek subsequent employment.

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David J. Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.