U.S. agriculture has a long history of relying on temporary workers to help plant and harvest crops, tend orchards and manage livestock. What would you do to solve agriculture’s labor shortage problem?
To contribute to the vitality of our agricultural economy, we must design a system that provides legal channels for U.S. employers to hire needed foreign workers. This system must protect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers and only be used when U.S. workers are not available. I have called on Congress to pass and implement the AgJOBS Act, which allows farmers to hire the workers they rely on, and provides a path to citizenship for those workers.
But we cannot wait for Congress to act, which is why my administration is already taking action to improve the existing system for temporary agricultural workers. We are also standing up a new Office on Farmworker Opportunities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the first office for farmer workers in the Agency’s history. These measures are helping to identify the challenges faced by farmworkers and address the need for a reliable labor force.
I understand and appreciate the critical role that foreign temporary workers play in the agriculture industry.I also understand that our current system for issuing visas to temporary, seasonal workers is broken. Too often, harvest or tourist season passes before temporary worker visas are approved. Indeed, in 2006 and 2007, 43% of all applications for temporary agricultural workers were not processed on time. As president, I will make the system for bringing in temporary agricultural workers and other seasonal workers functional for both employers and workers.I will get rid of unnecessary requirements that delay issuance of a visa and will speed the processing of applications. A legal immigration system that works will provide a lawful alternative to workers who would otherwise enter illegally and employers who face the choice of either reducing operations or turning to illegal labor to address labor shortage problems.
Additionally, let me add what my Administration will not do in this area. We will not propose heavy-handed regulations that will limit opportunities for our youth to be involved in agriculture. This is a stark contrast to what the Obama Administration proposed in their regulations to prohibit those under the age of 16 from working on farms, in some cases even one owned by their family. The impacts of this rule would have negatively affected our next generation of farmers, ranchers, and rural leaders. That’s why even the National FFA Organization opposed this misguided regulation. While the Obama Administration has since retreated on this ill-advised regulation, it demonstrates how out of touch they are with our nation’s family farms and their possible agenda if given another four years unhindered by reelection.