The size of a limit on the new agricultural guest worker program is drawing plenty of concern among ag labor advocates.
Despite the fact that ag labor advocates would prefer there be no cap, Republican and Democratic lawmakers have told agricultural employer advocates the legislation will restrict numbers for the agriculture guest worker program, with 150,000 guest workers suggested as a cap by some.
That seems too low considering some estimates put the number of agricultural workers at well over 1 million.
The leadership of the United Farm Workers is reportedly uncomfortable with agriculture’s desire to move the new guest worker program to the U.S. Department of Agriculture rather than the Department of Labor.
Farmworker advocates also worry that an expanded guest worker program would flood the labor market and depress wages.
Just as agriculture employers and UFW came to agree on the AgJobs solutions, both sides will need to bend in the next few weeks and find their way to sign on to the ag component of comprehensive immigration legislation.
Agriculture may be able to accept a cap, as long the legislative solution gives flexibility to go higher if they find themselves losing their newly legalized work force to other industries.
Given the grander goal of comprehensive immigration success, UFW should accept a guest worker program housed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
At the end of the day, agriculture and farmworker advocates should be pushing in the same direction for immigration reform.
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