Given the importance of H-2A programs in farm operations, rules are frequently updated according to market conditions and federal immigration policy. As example, The Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA) was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in March 2021 and proposes several material changes to the H-2A program to facilitate the application process and accelerate the growth of the H-2A program overall. Examples of suggested reforms include permitting employers to bring in H-2A workers
as crop productivity increases instead of all at once at the H-2A contract start date, introducing three-year H-2A visas, establishing limits on how much the AEWR can increase before 2030, providing certain industries – such as dairy – access to the H-2A program and developing a pathway for unauthorized immigrant farm workers to achieve legal resident status. However, as the immigration reform did not pass the U.S. Senate in 2022, further reforms will likely be on hold for the next three years.
3.2.4 THE FUTURE OF THE H-2A PROGRAM
Driven by the lack of available domestic labor, growers are increasingly relying on H-2A labor to cultivate and harvest specialty crops. While the program is gaining significant traction, the growth is mainly driven by farm labor contractors that lease their workers’ services to farms. Individual growers often indicate that high fixed costs, such as registration fees, housing and transportation, make it complicated to engage in the H-2A program directly.
In addition, the H-2A filing process typically requires specialized third-party advice.
With increasing mechanization and automation of farm operations, reliance on H-2A may decrease. However, reaping the full benefits of automation will take time. As a result, the H-2A program is likely to remain an important component of major farm operations in the foreseeable future.
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