A bipartisan group of Congressional leaders has once again introduced legislation designed to correct many of the labor issues facing agriculture.

AgJOBS, as Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act is known, was introduced by California Sen. Diane Feinstein and Reps. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., and Howard Berman, D-Calif. Sixteen senators have signed on as co-sponsors.

The House version is H.R. 2414; the Senate version S. 1038.

The bill was first introduced in 2003.

The measure is vital in solving the agriculture industry’s critical labor needs, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association President Mike Stuart said in a news release.

“This isn’t just an issue for Florida; it’s an issue for our nation. Congress must pass reform measures to ensure a sufficient legal workforce to plant and harvest America’s food supply."

In a separate release, U.S. Apple President Nancy Foster praised the congressional leaders' efforts.

“Agriculture needs access to a legal, reliable and stable workforce,” she says. “The lack of a workable agricultural labor program, coupled with uneven immigration enforcement, constitutes an absolute threat to the survival of the American farm.”  

AgJOBS restructures the H-2A temporary worker program by:

• Substantially streamlining it, including eliminating the labor certification process
• Reforming the requirements for H-2A employers, including an immediate reduction and gradual elimination of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate
• Streamlining the process for admission of H-2A workers
• Allowing workers not currently in the program to acquire H-2A status.

AgJOBS also would provide law-abiding foreign workers who have made a substantial commitment to agricultural employment in the United States a pathway to legal status by meeting strict requirements.