Tester Pushes to Cut Red Tape for Farmers and Ranchers
Bipartisan Paperwork Reduction for Farmers Act Will Make It Easier to Hire Seasonal Labor
(U.S Senate) – As harvest season approaches, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is pushing to cut red tape and increase flexibility for American farmers and ranchers so they can hire ag workers more quickly.
Tester introduced the bipartisan Paperwork Reduction for Farmers Act with Republican Senator Rand Paul to require the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to create an online application process to reduce weeks-long bureaucratic delays in the hiring process for seasonal labor.
“Giving family farmers and ranchers more flexibility and certainty will help Montana’s number one industry,” said Tester. “This common-sense bill will bring the process for hiring extra hands into the 21st century and make it easier for farmers and ranchers by reducing bureaucratic delays, and saving folks money.”
Tester’s bill will make critical reforms to the H-2A Visa process for family farmers and ranchers. The H-2A Visa Program allows farmers and ranchers to temporarily hire non-immigrant foreign agriculture workers to help with seasonal labor.
The Paperwork Reduction for Farmers Act will:
- Allow livestock and equine workers to qualify as H-2A employees.
- Require the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to create an online Request for Evidence system that will respond within 10 business days to all supplemental evidence submissions.
- Allow producers to enter multi-employer joint contracts to ensure workers are guaranteed their hours and farmers are not struggling to find work for employees where there is no additional work to be done.
- Provide farmers and ranchers with due process rights if their H-2A application is delayed or denied.
- Create a simplified application for farmers and ranchers who bring back the same H-2A workers each growing season.
- Allow farmers and ranchers to bring on H-2A workers with staggered start and end dates to best meet the needs of the operation.
- Require the Departments of State and Homeland Security to promptly provide a replacement worker if a worker prematurely leaves the job or fails to appear for employment.
As of January 2017, non-immigrant foreign workers from nearly 100 countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A program. Once their work in the United States is finished, their H-2A visa expires and they are required to return home.