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Ag Labor / Workforce Needs

The agricultural community is dependent on a sustainable workforce now more than ever. Every farm worker engaged in high-value labor intensive crop and livestock production sustains an average of two to three off-farm jobs. With the added burden of a global pandemic, employers and employees are strained even further.

Each year, ARA membership decides a new set of policy issues the association will focus on with elected officials and key regulatory agencies in Washington, D.C. The established set of policy issues typically drive discussions during the annual ARA Legislative Fly-In. Read more about ARA's proposed solutions related to ag labor and workforce needs.

Background

  • The agricultural community is dependent on a sustainable workforce now more than ever.
  • Every farm worker engaged in high-value labor intensive crop and livestock production sustains two to three off-farm jobs.
  • The current H-2A ag guest worker visa program needs major statutory reforms if it is to be a workable solution for the entire agricultural industry.
  • Current federal minimum age (21) requirements to obtain a CDL has a negative impact on driver recruitment efforts. Businesses are not able to hire young adults (ages 18 to 20) making an initial career choice.

ARA's Position

  • Support passage of the “Drive Safe Act” (H.R. 1745/S. 659) to create a more robust pilot program for short haul drivers between the ages of 18 to 20 transporting farm supplies and / or agricultural commodities to increase the available number of commercial drivers.
  • Support the establishment of a comprehensive immigration reform policy that provides for a new, usable ag guest worker visa program with a reliable verification system, secures the borders, and provides current farm workers the opportunity to apply for legal status through the sponsorship of an eligible agricultural employer.
  • Support reforms to the Farm-Related Restricted CDL program to allow for online renewals and increased flexibility on the types of commercial vehicles allowed under this essential seasonal program.
  • Maintain the classification of U.S. agribusinesses, their employees and farmers as critical infrastructure and essential workers.

Ag Visa Reform

The current H-2A ag guest worker visa program is broken and only available for part of the agricultural industry. Additionally, agriculture needs the H-2A program to be more flexible because it currently requires the cooperation of multiple federal agencies which can complicate the program even further.

In some industry areas, the H-2A visa program is the only guest worker program currently available and serves as the only means to a dependable workforce. However, the H-2A visa program only allows for temporary or seasonal workers. In other areas of the industry, there is no access to H-2A visas or any workforce due to the year-round nature of the job at hand.

ARA is a member of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) which brings together organizations representing the diverse needs of agricultural employers across the country. AWC serves as the unified voice of agriculture in the effort to ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers and growers have access to a stable and secure workforce now and in the future.

DRIVE-Safe Act

According to a recent estimate, the nation needs an additional 50,000 truck drivers immediately – a shortage that is expected to grow to more than 174,000 by 2026. In many supply chains, companies are being forced to increase prices to account for higher transportation costs, ultimately resulting in higher prices for consumers on everything from electronics to food.

The DRIVE-Safe Act would create a two-step apprenticeship program to allow younger drivers to enter the industry safely. Candidates would be accompanied in the cab by experienced drivers for a total of 400 hours of on-duty time with at least 240 hours of driving time. Trucks would be required to be outfitted with the latest safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing event recording cameras, speed limiters set at 65 miles per hour or less and automatic or automatic manual transmissions. The DRIVE-Safe Act will help our nation’s freight continue to move while preserving the safety of our highway system.

Questions? Send questions to the ARA policy team of experts via the DC Help Desk. 

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