Today, the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement is holding a hearing on H.R. 2847, The American Specialty Agriculture Act, which was introduced yesterday by Chairman Lamar Smith.
H.R. 2847 creates an entirely new agricultural worker visa program -- referred to as the H-2C program -- which is designed to provide a stable and secure labor force for American farmers. I would like to commend my friend Chairman Smith for his hard work on this issue and for introducing this legislation. I share Chairman Smith's goal of creating a more user-friendly guest worker program that will help agriculture find qualified workers in a very timely manner.
I will not describe in detail all the elements of the American Specialty Agriculture Act. However, I did want to highlight two important provisions which are an improvement over the current H-2A program.
First, the new H-2C program will be administered by the Department of Agriculture. This is the federal department which is most familiar with the operations of the agricultural industry. From a California perspective, I believe the Department of Agriculture will better understand the labor needs of growers of specialty crops and the need to avoid long, bureaucratic delays.
Second, H.R. 2847 makes the H-2C program attestation-based, much like the H-1B visa program. This is in contrast to the much more time-consuming labor application process that is a part of the H-2A program. Again, this will reduce delays which have often made the H-2A program unworkable for many if not most agricultural employers. In my Congressional district, where specialty crops are predominant, growers have repeatedly told me that the key factor in being able to utilize a guest worker program is the ability to hire workers without long lead times.
Again, I thank the Chairman for his work on this very complicated issue and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.