Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by a vote of 17-16 a bill to create a new, workable agricultural guestworker program for America’s farmers and ranchers.

H.R. 4092, the Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act), authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), replaces the outdated and broken H-2A guestworker program with a reliable, efficient, and fair program. The H-2A program is widely known to be expensive, time-consuming, and flawed. Each year, employers using the H-2A program have to comply with a lengthy labor certification process that is slow and plagued with red tape. As a result of complying with H-2A regulations, employers using the program almost always find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace.

To provide American farmers with access to a legal, stable supply of workers, the AG Act creates a new H-2C guestworker program designed to meet the needs of the diverse agriculture industry. The program covers year-round employers, like dairies, aquaculture operations, food processors, and others. Further, the AG Act allows experienced unauthorized agricultural workers to join the H-2C program and provides more flexibility to American farmers with respect to housing, transportation, and touchback periods.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte said the following on today’s Committee approval of the AG Act:

“Farming is a central part of American life and fuels our economy. Although no other country in the world rivals America’s agriculture industry, our nation’s farmers face many obstacles in today’s global economy. One challenge in particular is access to a stable and reliable workforce when not enough American workers can be found to fill jobs. The current agricultural guestworker program is unworkable for farmers, buries them in red tape and excessive costs, and must be replaced.

“The House Judiciary Committee today approved the AG Act to replace the broken H-2A program with a reliable, efficient, and fair program and provide American farmers access to a legal, stable supply of workers for seasonal as well as year-round work. These changes will help ensure that our meat and produce continue to be grown in America and that our nation’s agricultural industry thrives in the global marketplace. I look forward to continue working with Members of Congress on this bill so that farmers can continue growing our food and our economy with the assurance that their labor needs will be met.”

To learn more about the House Judiciary Committee’s work to improve our nation’s immigration laws, click here.