On Tuesday Dianne Feinstein announced that senators had reached a “tentative” deal between farm businesses and labor groups on the framework of a reformed program to bring foreign farm workers to the US. The issue is a central caveat in the senate immigration bill, and has pitted the concerns of agriculture businesses against labor groups over fair minimums wages for workers and caps to the amount of visas to extend.
Farm businesses have claimed a number of factors -- stronger enforcement of immigration laws, a slow and expensive current H2A visa program, an aversion to farming jobs from current US citizens -- as being responsible for the shortage of farm labor and the need to build a new guest worker program.
Labor groups, meanwhile, are fighting to keep the visa cap low and the base wage to be high to ensure that workers are not mistreated. Are the sides moving closer to an agreement? What will it take to make each side satisfied?
Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation; his group has lobbied legislators to create a better legal guest worker program that deals with shortages of farm workers.
Marc Grossman, Spokesperson, United Farm Workers of America