A new plan will give annual visas to up to 500,000 foreign national farm workers, but many U.S. farm owners do not think the bill provides enough support for their industry. The new bill, written by the conservative Texas Republican Senator, Lamar Smith, proposes to move the H-2A visa program from the Labor Department to the Agriculture Department, streamline the application process for growers and ease many requirements for growers.
However, many in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) are not fans of the proposal. Lofgren says that the bill proposes to slash wages and worker protections in favor of growers, and creates incentives for U.S.-based growers to get rid of domestic workers in exchange for cheaper, foreign labor. California growers currently do not regularly use the H-2A visa program and many in the state have been supporting a program called AgJobs, which would give legal status to up to 1.5 million illegal immigrant farm workers, something Smith’s proposal does not do.