From CapitalPress.info, Mitch Lies, 21 Jul 2011.
A farm labor executive said the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program doesn’t offer a solution to the labor shortage that is expected if Congress adopts mandatory usage of E-Verify.
“Conservative legislators are saying, ‘Tell us five or six things wrong with H-2A and we’ll fix them,'” said Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers. “Either somebody doesn’t understand agriculture, or they are totally overestimating the ability of Congress to get things done.
“The H-2A program has proven to be neither workable nor accessible to the majority of farmers,” he said.
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows employers to check whether a job applicant is a U.S. citizen by matching his or her Social Security number in a national database.
U.S. employers would be required to use the system under the Legal Workforce Act, a bill currently in Congress.
Agricultural leaders have said that if the bill passes, U.S. farmers could lose more than half of their labor force.
Although important for some farmers, the H-2A program supplies less than 3 percent of active farmworkers in the U.S., Gasperini said.
“It doesn’t pass the red-face test to say that the Department of Labor can go from 60,000 (the current program participation) to 1.2 million (70 percent of the current farm labor force) by tweaking the same broken program,” Gasperini said.
“We’re saying, if you are talking about a mandatory E-Verify, you need to address our current agricultural labor issues.
“We believe it is important for this nation’s food security that a workable program be accessible for all farmers to hire enough workers,” Gasperini said.