A new farm labor bill has been introduced in Congress that has bi-partisan support and includes two changes some say will help New York farms.
The new bill will allow visas for year-round workers and it provides a path to legal status for current farm workers already in the U.S.
The bill allows for 20,000 of the new year-round H2A visas to be issued each year for the first three years of the change. The H2A visa is currently only for temporary farm workers.
“That’s something we would like to see increase just because I don’t think we know the full extent of the number of farm employees looking to get into the H2A program if they don’t qualify for a current status worker,” said Lauren Williams, Associate Director for National Affairs at the New York Farm Bureau.
Williams said a path to legal status is important for dairy farms.
“That’s a really big issue for our dairy farmers in New York,” she said, “just because they don’t have access to a visa program that allows them to bring in workers.”
The New York dairy industry is the top producer of yogurt in the nation and ranks high in several other products.
New York Congressmen Tom Reed (R-Corning) and Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) are co-sponsors of the bill.