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Bipartisan Amendment Approved with NMPF Support Addresses Dairy Labor Challenges

July 8, 2019

The House Appropriations Committee in June adopted a bipartisan amendment to its Fiscal Year 2020 Homeland Security Appropriations bill that takes a step in the right direction to address dairy’s unique workforce needs. The amendment, offered by Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA), would permit dairy farmers and other farm employers to use the H-2A visa program to hire year-round workers, not just those who are doing temporary or seasonal work.

NMPF and its Immigration Task Force have worked carefully on this proposal, which Rep. Newhouse has offered in the past with support from Rep. Cuellar, so that dairy farmers can use the H-2A visa program to meet their labor needs for year-round workers.  Up to this point, the dairy industry has largely not been able to use the H-2A program because it is restricted to temporary and seasonal workers.

The full House is likely to consider the Homeland Security Appropriations measure later this summer, and the Senate will craft its own version of the bill.  NMPF looks forward to working to maintain the amendment in any final House-Senate negotiated measure to be sent to the president later this year.

NMPF also continues to work with members of Congress to build momentum for comprehensive ag labor legislation that meets dairy’s workforce needs by providing a pathway to legal status for current farm workers and creating a workable guest worker program on a permanent basis. The Cuellar-Newhouse amendment is an important foot in the door to meeting the needs of an industry that ‘harvests’ its product multiple times a day, every day.