08 October 2010

US Visa program for horticultural workers may expand to include dairy farms

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A US Visa program that allows fruit and vegetable forms to hire temporary foreign workers could be expanded to include dairy farms, two US senators propose.

US Visa

A extension to a US Visa stream will allow foreign workers to work on dairy farms.

US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the H-2A Improvement Act on Tuesday. The legislation would allow foreign workers with a specific US Visa to work for up to three years at a dairy, after which they may petition to become permanent residents.

Dairy farms in Western New York in the past decade have increasingly turned to workers from Mexico and Guatemala  for labour after failing to find reliable local help, especially for the night-time milking positions.

The new proposed legislation comes as the so-called AgJOBS bill that would greatly increase the pool of legal farm workers for all of agriculture, has stalled in Congress despite some bipartisan support and lobbying by farm associations.

Fruit and vegetable farmers have long used the H-2A Us Visa and the workers tend to stay for only a few months. Dairies were excluded from the program because that farm work wasn’t defined as seasonal.

The revamped H2A will ensure “that the dairy industry be treated equally by having basic access to this visa program,” Leahy said.

“Low milk prices combined with rising costs of production and severe labor shortage have been devastating for dairy farmers across New York,” Gillibrand said in a news release.

“Compounding these challenges, dairy farmers lack access to H-2A visas under current regulations. This legislation would provide dairy farmers access to visas for workers, helping them during these difficult times.”

The two senators both said they are committed to the AgJOBS bill and more comprehensive US immigration reform.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their ESTA application to the US Embassy.

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